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Midwest TT

Are you considering moving to the US? This advice may not apply in the UK, but I think should be good advice at least for the US. Here are the ways that people I know personally have solved two body problems in the US:

1. One person gets a TT offer and negotiates a job for the other partner. This is how my partner and I solved our problem - I got a TT, got him a VAP, and he applied for and got a TT line when it came up in his AOS the next year. I've also known people who have negotiated a TT line for the spouse right away.

2. One person gets a TT, and the partner gets an offer elsewhere. The TT person then uses the threat of leaving to get the partner a TT at the original institution. Another coupled in our department solved their two body problem this way.

3. One person has a TT, gets an offer elsewhere, and threatens to leave unless their partner gets a TT at their original university. (In the case that I know of, the first person was actually already tenured and got their spouse a TT at the same place.)

4. One partner gets a TT offer, they negotiate to split the line (half pay and half teaching for each) for X years until a new line can be created so they both have full lines (note that this promise may or may not come through, even if you get it in writing).

5. Multiple jobs were available, and each partner got a TT line when applying on their own. I know of people for whom this has worked in both the UK and Australia. In both of the cases that I know of, the hiring department independently knew that the two applicants were members of a couple, so they didn't have a choice about whether to make that known or not. (I suspect it helped them in both cases, but only because at least one spouse was wanted a lot by the department - see advice below.)

I know your question is a little bit different, since you are associate and don't want to take a step back, but I thought it might be useful to have a sense of what some other people have successfully done.

In terms of your specific questions:

1) Who should apply? Definitely both of you. Get as many irons in the fire as possible - especially if you're in the US, since there are so many more junior jobs available than senior jobs. My sense is that this is not the case so much in the UK or Australia - that generally there are jobs open in areas and you're hired at the level appropriate to your experience. But obviously I might be wrong here. In the US, though, if you are a senior person I think you won't even be considered for most junior positions unless you explicitly say you're willing to start over (this is at least in part because administrators won't ok the more expensive hire). So he'll have more jobs to apply to than you will. Apply for all of them.
2) Should you say you're a pair when applying? My sense is that this depends on the job and how fancy you are. If you are generally so fancy that you wouldn't be likely to stay under normal circumstances, then telling them you come as a pair and are trying to solve a two body problem might reassure them that you'll take the jobs and actually stay if you both get them. They'll get a fancy person and not risk a failed search or you leaving, you'll solve a two body problem. (My partner and I are not super fancy, but we recently faced a budget crisis at our university and got offers for two jobs elsewhere. The jobs were at a smaller department than ours, an dI suspect that telling them we were a pair when we applied made them more likely to offer the jobs to both of us.) If you are applying to a really fancy job, though, I wouldn't mention it - they can probably hire and keep two unrelated fancy people without baggage for the spots. Knowing you have a spouse to deal with might make them less likely to consider either of you if they can get equally good or better people for at least one spot without having to deal with spousal accommodation. (But if one or the other of you does get an offer for one of the jobs, then you can try to negotiate for a job for the other, still.)

Generally, I'd recommend thinking about where your priorities lie. Less fancy places in less desirable locations are sometimes more willing to hire couples, because they know that it's a way of getting (and keeping) better people than they would otherwise get. Good luck!

Anon TT

Midwest TT, could you provide more details on #2? What kind of offer did the partner get? It seems unusual that one could simply threaten to quit if their partner got another job, unless their partner got another job that offered them a spousal hire as well, and it was this counter spousal hire that was really used as leverage.

To the OP, while I agree with Midwest TT that you should both be applying, I also have to admit that I've never heard of a case in which someone was hired as a tenure track assistant professor and was able to negotiate a partner hire at the tenured associate level. So, while it might be best to increase your odds with both of you applying, I expect that you'll need to be the one with the initial offer in order to get the level of position you're happy with.

Midwest TT

Anon TT, I agree it's probably not the most common way to solve the two body problem. In our department, here is what happened: Spouse 1 got a job with us, arranging a 2 year VAP for Spouse 2. Spouse 2 went on the market and got an offer for a TT job at another school. The other school explicitly said that they could give Spouse 1 only adjunct work - but I assume Spouse 2 didn't report this to our Dean. Spouse 2 told our department head about the offer, and our head went to the dean and said "Spouse 2 has gotten a job offer, Spouse 1 will leave along with Spouse 2 unless we give Spouse 2 a TT line." So it really was just the threat of leaving that worked - although I think our whole department was also really surprised (but also delighted!).

As for negotiating a senior hire for your spouse, I suspect it would only work if the senior spouse was *very* fancy. If they already want the junior person, I can see a department being really excited to get an even fancier senior person "for free" - although I suspect it would be harder to convince administration.


I'm late to the discussion with a related question.

I wonder whether anyone knows of a case where a couple applied jointly (i.e., writing a joint cover letter and including both candidates' info in a single dossier), *seeking to split a single tenure-track line*. I haven't. But it might have some advantages, especially with smaller or less fancy schools (as Midwest TT suggests), and especially when both partners already have TT jobs (in different cities). Some advantages:

(1) Increased course coverage, which might help small departments remain viable.

(2) Increased mentorship for students. I believe that recruitment of majors depends partly on personality, and having more professors gives departments more personality styles to attract students.

(3) Having a part-time teaching schedule might deliver benefits to students. I'm able to focus on helping individual students much more when I have 50 students than when I have 100.

I suspect applying jointly would be wise for people who want to split a job. It increases the time that a department has to think it over and/or to negotiate with the Dean or Provost. A split-job request is also so unusual that you wouldn't want to spring it on the hiring committee at the last minute.

Any thoughts?


I wonder if this kind of thing can happen in the world where universities are big bureaucracies. It seems unlikely but I would be happy to be proven wrong.

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