American academic tenures in decline

March 31, 2000

American academics are increasingly ready to forgo the security of tenure in exchange for competitive salaries and research freedom, a Harvard Graduate School of Education survey reveals today.

The reason is pragmatic: there are fewer tenured jobs available. Tenure is already under fire from students and law-makers who say it restricts universities' ability to fire poor teachers.

Many universities are already replacing their tenured faculty with part-time and non-tenure track faculty, citing economic reasons. There is also an element of hostility towards tenure for professors from other workers who have no such job guarantees.

Faculty associations argue that tenure is necessary to maintain academic freedom as it prevents a university from dismissing someone with unpopular or critical views.

The Harvard report was to be presented at the American Association of Higher Education annual meeting in California.

It reveals that, as the number of tenure-track positions declines, new staff are looking at other factors when considering a job.

Cathy Trower, the senior researcher, said people with doctorates in computer science, engineering, and business were in such demand outside higher education they were less dependent on finding a tenured position at a university.

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