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I think it would be somewhat unusual (and a big red flag, IMO) for an institution to be wholly unwilling to consider one's past work as counting towards tenure. Depending on your situation, it could be perfectly reasonable to say something like, "I'd be very excited about the prospect of joining [dept at X], but not at the cost of a complete career reset. My current expectation is to go up for tenure in around [Y] years; is that something that could be accommodated if I moved to [X]? In particular, can you confirm that my full publication record will be taken into account for tenure decisions, without regard to where I was employed at the time of publication?"

Just make sure that you get the answer in WRITING. I've come across too many cases of junior people being told one thing (verbally) during the hiring process, and then something completely different afterwards.

Bill Vanderburgh

I think this is a topic in our union contract. The dean can authorize up to three years of credit toward tenure, I think it is. The number of years of credit towards tenure is a negotiable item in the offer letter.

(On this basis, I would suggest handling it slightly differently than Richard suggests. Ask the department chair one-on-one during the on-campus visit about credit toward tenure policies and practices, then negotiate with the dean when the time comes. The Department has no decision power in such cases, usually, so putting up a barrier with the search committee won't help you and could hurt. You have most negotiating power when the department has already recommended hiring you, and really none before that.)

At my place there is a local bias that they want to see you perform "here" before granting tenure, which includes gelling with our students, fitting in, no red flags coming up. I imagine this is the feeling in lots of places, so you might not get exactly the same time to tenure when you move, but it would be very unlikely you'd have to restart the tenure clock entirely.


I have a follow up question based on Richard's response:

Does something similar hold for those coming from postdocs or visiting positions? I'm building a fairly decent publication record (6 pubs in very good journals), but still haven't managed to land a TT job. If I'm luckily enough to ever land a TT position, should I try to negotiate including my past publications to be included towards tenure before starting the position? Thanks!

Caligula's Goat


My sense is that you could always *try* to negotiate this after you've received an offer but at a university like mine (a research intensive SLAC without a graduate program) it's really unusual for a post-doc's tenure clock to be accelerated. The only tenure clock accelerations I've seen are with people coming either with tenure (so an Associate coming in as an Assistant but with an accelerated clock) or as an advanced Assistant professor with a shoterned clock.

But all politics is local so if the place you're hired at wants you enough then anything is possible but I think it's unlikely to work in most sorts of places I'm familiar with.

Tenured now

I interviewed for other jobs in year 4 of my tenure clock and in year 6 (while I was going up for tenure). All of the jobs I interviewed for were willing to count all of my previous publications and let me go up for tenure early. The job I ultimately took hired me as Associate Professor and put me up for tenure immediately (so I was an untenured associate for one year while the process went through).

A few things to consider: 1) Whether the expectations are different at the new institution in a way that would make a longer clock helpful (for instance, one place I interviewed required a book for tenure, which was not in my plans previously - so if I had gotten that job, it would have been good to take the whole tenure clock and then go up early if I could); 2) whether there are any benefits of being junior (i.e. is there a pre-tenure sabbatical available? Will you miss out on it if you take too many years of the tenure clock?); and 3) are there benefits or drawbacks to a shortened tenure clock versus going up early, if they are both options (some schools have higher bars for early tenure than on-time tenure, apparently).


Sysiphus, some universities do count your postdoctoral record towards tenure. This is the case at my current R1 institution and at several other R1s that I interviewed with.


To answer Sisyphus: I was able to negotiate a year of credit coming from a VAP position into a TT position. I had an offer for another TT position, so this may have made the difference, but I’m not sure it did.

To add to the discussion: at my institution, which papers published at previous institutions count toward tenure is determined by how many years of credit one receives. If you receive one year of credit, all and only publications from the year before your new TT job starts count. So suppose you have three years worth of publications before starting the new TT job. It would not be possible to get, say, a year of credit and also have all of your publication record count towards tenure at my institution. So, where I work, Richard’s suggestion to ensure that your entire publication record counts towards tenure wouldn’t be independent of how many years of credit you negotiate and when you published.

Finally, I wouldn’t count on department members at your prospective institution to be reliable about the policies surrounding credit years, for lots of reasons—they may never have had to understand the policies, things may have changed since they did, or, somewhat sadly, they may not have your best interest in mind at this stage. So I’d recommend reading tenure standards, credit and and early tenure policies from the institution, or possibly even reaching out to HR to understand how things work at that particular institution.

Anonymous for this

At my institution, we’ve hired several Assistant Professors who were 3-4 years in at a different TT job before they came here. Each of them got 2 years’ credit (meaning they could go up for tenure in year 4). I came in having worked for one year as a VAP, and I was offered the option to go up for tenure one year early, if I wanted to. In each case, these were written into our contract. Our tenure standards specify that the whole record of publication is considered for meeting the quantity number, but also that ongoing productivity must be demonstrated (so, if someone came in already having met the number and did not publish anything further in the next 4 years, they wouldn’t meet the tenure standards).

Mike Titelbaum

Sorry to come to this discussion late, but I think there's a bigger picture comment to be made here, in part summarizing the differences in local customs noted above: At some schools, the rules about these things (what publications you can get credit for, in what circumstances you can come in with time on your clock) are written in stone, in the form of written policies that neither the department nor the dean can affect. At other schools, these things are negotiable. If the institution has written, publicly-available tenure guidelines, read those and see what you can learn. If that doesn't settle the matter, I would wait until after the department has informed you that you are their top candidate, then initiate a conversation with whomever you are involved in negotiating the other terms of the contract with (whether it be the department chair or dean).

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