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sad to say

These are very challenging. You are basically asking another department to give up the opportunity for their own search (which they might have been waiting 5 years for), so that they can hire your partner. Most people would NOT want this if they were in the department losing a search and gaining a colleague they did not have any plan to hire.
In one case I witnessed at a 4 year college, a department was willing to offer the partner a temporary position - the partner ended up getting a TT job at a research university.


An asymmetry between hiring in philosophy and in many "hard" sciences is important to consider. When hiring a philosopher, the only real costs are their salary and associated "startup" costs. Philosophers are relatively cheap to hire. Hiring a scientist often involves proving them with a lab and footing the associated overhead and materials costs. So scientists are relatively expensive to hire.

Other things equal, universities prefer to hire philosophers rather than scientists as "trailing spouses" since philosophers are cheaper to hire than scientists. If you're a philosopher partnered with a scientist, you're much more likely to be the spousal hire rather than the initial hire since spousal hires for scientists are comparatively much more expensive and so much more rare.

Partner Hire

Hi, I'm the OP. To be clear, Marcus (and others), have you witnessed a partner being hired on as a NTT, full-time lecturer (or VAP or whatever your university's terminology is), and then eventually that position was not renewed? Because, yes, that seems like a disaster for the couple. I'd be happy with a more-or-less permanent full-time NTT position, but I hadn't considered the possibility that it would disappear after a year or two.

Marcus Arvan

“Marcus (and others), have you witnessed a partner being hired on as a NTT, full-time lecturer (or VAP or whatever your university's terminology is), and then eventually that position was not renewed?”

Yes. (Note: I’m not referring to my university. It has happened to friends of mine elsewhere, and one or both of them are probably going to have to leave the profession as a result).


I was in this camp, too (I'm the philosopher, my spouse is in the life-sciences). We both had TT jobs at different schools, and then got very lucky: my institution was hiring in my wife's field, and she applied and ultimately got the job. Any prior attempt to negotiate something at either institution was fruitless, even though we were both already TT, and both schools are very "well-regarded."

My one piece of advice, I think, is that it can help if the person at the institution you both want to be at gets out in the community, gets involved, meets faculty in other departments, is regarded as a good citizen, etc. Doing these things certainly didn't get my wife hired: she got the job because she was an outstanding candidate. But I doubt it hurt.

Keep your head up...a little?

First, everything Conrad said above!

Second, I don't want to accidentally instill undue optimism, but in case we're looking for one positive story...

I had a TT-position, while my wife was postdoc'ing in biology. That institution was very unhelpful on the spousal front. But, she then secured a TT position elsewhere, and they did offer me a position (this stage was pre-COVID by a couple weeks). It started as a 2-year VAP, but by spring of the first year (which was this past spring, during COVID), they worked with me to figure out a permanent position. It's NTT, but a promotable position, closer to TT than lectureship (in their own words), and they have me doing TT orientation this year to back that up.

I should also mention that the position is part teaching, part running an ethics initiative. I do think my ability to do the later was really helpful in my case. But, I did get the impression that they would have worked with me either way. Hard to know for sure.

So, it can happen if the institution is motivated. But, I think the institutions so motivated, are few and far between.

Fingers crossed

I've been in a similar position: I'm a philosophy PhD and my spouse sought tenure track positions in medical research.

Our experience was extremely varied. One job flatly refused to help find me a position. Another offered me work doing grantwriting and the like within the medical college. Another had agreements across colleges to help fund positions for spouses, including permanent NTT jobs.

These are institutional things one cannot really know until being offered the position, in my experience. (My spouse agrees with this assessment.)

Best of luck!

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