3.2 Tenure Process

This policy was last updated October 11, 2022. See the update history page for more information.

The Institute regards tenure as important to ensuring academic freedom in teaching, research, and extramural activity. A department and the School or College make a career commitment when the award of tenure is recommended. The Institute as a whole, acting through the Academic Council and the Corporation, joins in this commitment when tenure is awarded.

Persons awarded tenure must be judged by distinguished members of their discipline to be of first rank among scholars and to show promise of continued contribution to scholarship. Tenured members of the Faculty must also demonstrate outstanding teaching, mentoring, advising, and university service; however, excellence in these important roles is not in itself a sufficient basis for awarding tenure.

A single standard of exceptional quality, as confirmed by distinguished members of their disciplines, applies across the Institute.  However, it should be noted that what is used as evidence of scholarly achievement and impact will vary based on the discipline and its modes of inquiry and that the opportunities for mentoring, advising, and university service also will vary among different departments.

Promotion to tenure is granted through a positive and systematic evaluation process culminating in a specific recommendation to the President by the Academic Appointments Subgroup of the Academic Council and, following the President's recommendation, explicit approval by the Executive Committee of the Corporation. Failure to give due notice of nonreappointment does not confer tenure. As in all decisions under these procedures (and procedures that may be developed by the Schools, College, and departments), the failure to follow a guideline or procedure may not be grounds for an affirmative appointment, reappointment, or promotion, but may be grounds for reconsideration of the decision.

Tenure is an indefinite appointment relinquished upon retirement or resignation. The rules of tenure may be summarized as follows:

  1. Appointment as professor carries tenure prior to retirement from MIT.
  2. Associate professors with a total of eight or more years of service must receive tenure in order to continue after age 35.
  3. In order to be continued, assistant professors with eight years of service and under age 35 must receive a promotion to associate professor.
  4. Tenure appointments will not be made in the ranks of assistant professor, visiting professor, adjunct professor, or professor of the practice, or to teaching appointments in the Department of Athletics, the Medical Department, or ROTC.
  5. Annually, department heads must review with every untenured faculty member of the department that individual's prospects for future and permanent appointment at the Institute.
  6. Tenure applies only to those with faculty rank, not to administrative positions; for example, department heads do not have tenure in that position but only in their academic rank.

Years of Service: A year of service means equivalent full-time academic service as an MIT faculty member, including full-time service in any rank of visiting professor but excluding service as an instructor. Each year of recognized professional leave counts as one year of service, but approved personal leaves do not count in the determination of years of service for tenure decisions. Equivalent full-time service allows the addition of fractions of years representing part-time service; for example, an individual with a half-time appointment for one academic year is deemed to have one-half year of service. For purposes of 2) and 3) of the rules of tenure above, a faculty member shall be understood not to have eight years of service until the July 1 next following the accumulation of eight years of equivalent full-time service. Exception to the rules determining years of service requires written approval of the cognizant department head, dean, and the Provost. Faculty should consult Section 7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief and also School or College policies for more information regarding applicable rules on leaves of absence and the determination of years of service for tenure decisions.

Determination of Age: A person's age in a given fiscal year is considered to be the age reached between July 1 and June 30 of that fiscal year. For example, an individual whose 35th birthday falls on November 1, 2010, is considered to be 35 years old during the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2010, and ends on June 30, 2011. If the same individual already has eight or more years of service, he or she would have to be granted tenure by June 30, 2011, in order to continue on the Faculty beyond July 1, 2011.

For policies that address the issues of tenure and family care, see Sections 3.2.1 Extension of Tenure Clock for Childbearing, 3.2.2 Part-Time Appointment with Tenure for Family Care, and 7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief. For information on tenure and retirement, see Sections 3.3 Review of a Decision not to Promote or Award Tenure3.4 Termination of Tenure and 7.7 Retirement of Faculty and Staff Members.

3.2.1 Extension of Tenure Clock for Childbearing and Child Rearing

In recognition of the effects that pregnancy and childbirth can have on a woman's ability to perform all the tasks necessary and expected to achieve tenure, a woman who bears a child during her tenure probationary period will have that period automatically extended by one year. A second one-year extension for the birth of any additional child (or children) will be granted by the Provost upon request. As in all tenure cases, a tenure review can take place prior to the end of the probationary period and that possibility should be assessed annually.

Partners or adoptive parents who wish to request an extension of the tenure clock should submit their request in writing to the Provost, with copies to their Department Head and Dean. These copies are for informational purpose only; only the Provost can grant the request. In their requests, faculty members should explain briefly their work and family situation, and describe how their involvement and responsibility for the care of a child during its first year with the family is sufficient to have a significant impact on their research.

No request for extension of the tenure clock can be made during the year in which the tenure would normally be decided.

Normally only one extension will be granted. However, in special circumstances a second extension may be requested.

In all cases, two years is the maximum extension allowed by this policy.

This policy will be carefully monitored and will be evaluated and reviewed at the end of a five-year period [2011].

See also Sections 3.2.2 Part-Time Appointment with Tenure for Family Care and 7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief.

3.2.2 Part-Time Appointment with Tenure for Family Care

Normally, tenured faculty members, regardless of gender, who need time for family care (children, partners, elders) may request a reduced-time (but not below 50-percent time), reduced-pay appointment for one or more semesters up to five years, with possible renewal. Details of the arrangement must be made with the department head and require the approval of the Dean of the School or the College. Faculty will be asked to specify the nature of the family care that is needed.

Faculty who take advantage of this policy will reduce their outside professional activities proportionately.

This arrangement is limited to family care and does not apply to any other reason for requesting a part-time appointment.

See also Sections 3.2.1 Extension of Tenure Clock for Childbearing and 7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief.