5 Tips to Earn Academic Tenure

Almost every new academic shares the same goal, but not everyone knows how to accomplish it. Tenure does more than ensure job security. It implies peer acceptance, professional accomplishment, and permanence of position in academia. In the United States, losing out on tenure actually gets equated with death in the phrase “publish or perish.”

The Australian system of tenure differs from some countries. US universities usually have a strict tenure track model through which academics earn permanent status as full professors. Germany plans to adopt the tenure track model in all of its state universities by 2032. Australia, however, followed the lead of the United Kingdom which abolished tenure over two decades ago. Tenure still exists in Australia and academics still struggle to obtain it. The main difference lies in the fact that theoretically, any working academic can earn a permanent position or “tenure.” The American counterpart can only earn it if hired to a job that specifically leads to tenure.

That being said, Americans, Germans, and others will recognise some of the same hoops jumped through by tenure seeking Australians.

Understand the System

Australian academics get categorised into levels from A to E and also receive conferred titles. Universities and other public institutions that hire academics grant a range of titles, but the level is the only real indicator of rank and seniority. The main key to finding an academic job and rising to a tenured rank lies in understanding what employers value, some of which may come as a surprise.

Look Outside of Academia As Well

Aspiring academics do not have to only look for meaningful positions in universities. Government agencies, public policy institutes, museums, and other organisations employ large numbers of researchers and others from the academic world. Universities remain the career goal of most seeking academic jobs, but they can obtain permanent and fulfilling employment outside of the traditional university system. This may even include academic jobs online.

Growing Prevalence of Grants

Universities have grown into institutions that increasingly compete in a marketplace like any other business. Like a corporation, success means finding and expanding revenue streams. Where a business expands revenue streams by reaching new customers and markets, a university often seeks out grants from the government or elsewhere.

Grants ideally help university researchers advance projects that create some kind of benefit. In other words, the money serves as a means to an end. As universities, however, rely more and more on steady streams of grant money, the grant becomes the end, the research benefit a byproduct, and the academic finds him or herself relegated to merely a means to the end.

Grant writers have a tremendous competitive advantage over others seeking academic jobs in the new university marketplace.

“Publish Or Perish” Still Prevails In the University

Australian universities expect more out of academics at a younger age or level of experience than ever before. A few years ago, an Australian academic related a story of a middling university that denied a doctoral student a scholarship. Why? She had not yet published in an accepted peer-review publication. She did not choose that Australian school, but picked another that believed she demonstrated potential, Harvard.

Publishing means having solid work placed in a peer-reviewed publication accepted by fellow academics as having reached a high enough level of prestige. Commonly, academic employers expect an A. B. D. to have three peer-reviewed pieces already on their record.

Academia, especially in the humanities, has grown into a buyers’ market. With a continuously growing glut of aspiring professors and researchers, universities can afford such pickiness.

Choose Research Over Teaching

Statistics bear out this uncomfortable truth at most universities and not just in Australia. Administrations do not value instruction relative to research. Students will come to a university regardless of who stands in the front of a classroom while researchers bring grant money and generate patents.

Casuals today make up 70 percent of all staff at Australian universities and 80 percent of those teaching. In many cases, universities had not even bothered to fill casual teaching positions only a few weeks prior to the start of the semester. While most think that teaching and education serve as the core of a university, clearly it does not take priority.

In such an environment, a track record of research gives the aspiring academic a much better shot at tenure than teaching excellence.

Even in today’s competitive market, aspiring professionals can still find academic jobs. Knowing the system, knowing institutional priorities, knowing what to expect, and knowing how to fit into that process all represent keys to finding academic jobs. Don’t get discouraged by the process. Do the research and ask good questions. Also, reach out to experts who can help aspiring professionals realise their dream of earning a permanent academic job.