Publication Date

April 2006


Almost all four-year institutions of higher education have adopted the tenure system as a formal policy for faculty employment. The degree to which tenure systems are actually implemented, however, depends on resource flows and institutional pressures. Fewer resource constraints (i.e., greater per-student revenues and larger endowments) increase the proportion of professors employed on tenure-track lines; likewise, a stronger research orientation positively affects the share of faculty in tenure-track slots. Colleges and universities that rely more heavily on tuition for revenues and those with larger numbers of accreditations (from professional and occupational associations) generally employ fewer tenure-track professors. Other variables also matter:

Tenure is more prevalent at public, older, and more complex universities and colleges and is less widespread among institutions that enroll larger numbers of students and among those that include a medical school. And finally, the share of tenure-track faculty declines on campuses with a larger pool of graduate students who are available to teach.


Suggested Citation
Tolbert, P.S., Sine, W.D., & Park, S. (2006). Faculty tenure and the gap between policy and practice (Impact Brief #6). Ithaca, NY: School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University.

The ILR Impact Brief series highlights the research and project based work conducted by ILR faculty that is relevant to workplace issues and public policy. The Briefs are prepared by Maralyn Edid, Senior Extension Associate, ILR School.

Required Publisher Statement
Copyright by Cornell University.