Faculty Handbook-Appendix E: FAQ-Best Practices for Promotion and Tenure

Faculty Handbook-Appendix E: FAQ-Best Practices for Promotion and Tenure

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Appendix E

FAQ: Best Practices for Promotion & Tenure

This appendix is a compilation of best practices and suggestions for individuals seeking promotion and tenure at UAB and are summarized as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.


The “best practices” in this Appendix shall not be viewed as the “only allowable” practices, or as encouragement in a particular situation to diverge from the terms of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies. Promotion and tenure practices are inherently discipline-specific and individual-specific. This Appendix is designed to be helpful in providing illustrative guidance across a variety of situations, but the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies and any other relevant official UAB policies supersede this Appendix in all cases. Further, this Appendix is not an official interpretation of such handbook or policies, nor are the suggestions in this Appendix official policies of UAB.


1.  What timelines should schools/college and departments consider for tenure and/or promotion relative to UAB Faculty Handbook Section 2.15.4? 

  • A tenure-earning period is defined as the duration of a tenure-earning appointment. This includes years to build academic merit and at least a year to submit for tenure review, and if tenure is not awarded, a terminal year prior to appointment termination.
  • Depending on the academic unit, the maximum length of the tenure-earning period may be from 7 to 10 years.
  • The start date of a tenure-earning period begins on the October 1st following the date of appointment.
  • Initiation of promotion and/or tenure cycle typically begins in November and concludes with approval by the Provost and announcement by the following August.
  • If tenure has not been awarded prior to the final submission year, the applicant for the tenure-earning appointment will be notified of the intent to terminate employment one calendar-year from the notification of denial of tenure. Only under very exceptional circumstances will the award of tenure be considered in the terminal year (Section 2.15.4).
  • A favorable tenure-review decision and Provost approval results in appointment to a tenured faculty position.


I. Best Practice Benchmarks for Tenure-earning Periods

7-yr Maximum
10-yr Maximum
Years to build academic merit
Years 1-5
Years 1-8
Initial appointments to tenure track position is typically for 2 years. The applicant may apply for tenure during the period noted in the table, unless otherwise specified within the academic unit handbook.
Final submission year
Year 6
Year 9
Normally the final year for tenure review
  • If tenure has not be previously earned, must apply for tenure or request extension (Section 2.15.4).
Terminal year
Year 7
Year 10
Provided to applicants who are considered for but not awarded tenure during the final submission year.

2.     Can a faculty member apply for promotion and/or tenure more than once?

The UAB faculty handbook allows for this to occur. However, it is advisable not to apply for promotion and/or tenure unless the applicant’s completed package is likely to be successful. Applicants should carefully consider pre-tenure recommendations made to them by P&T committees in the department or school/college as well as the department chair and others.
Note that a school/college or departmental handbook may restrict the number of times an individual can apply for tenure and the year(s) in which application can first be submitted.

3.     Can a faculty member apply for tenure review early?

Yes, unless otherwise specified within a school/college handbook. Seek advice of mentors and work with your chair to assure readiness.

4.     Should promotion and tenure be sought separately or at the same time?

There is no conclusive recommendation in the UAB Faculty Handbook. The answer to this question varies greatly based on individual circumstances, time of service requirements for rank (Sections 2.6.2-2.6.4), and specific guidelines within a school/college or department. Tenure can only be awarded to faculty who is at, or simultaneous with promotion to, the rank of Associate Professor or higher (Section 2.15.3). Tenure-earning Assistant Professors often simultaneously seek promotion with the award of tenure. However, a tenure-earning Assistant Professor may seek promotion prior to application for the award of tenure but may not apply for tenure without promotion (Section 2.15.3).

5.     What if the university and unit guidelines differ?

If in conflict, the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies takes precedence over school/college handbooks and these take precedence over departmental handbooks. Note, policies in a provost-approved school or dean approved departmental handbook may be more, but not less, restrictive than the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies.


II. Preparing While Building Academic Merit

6.     In addition to my chair, what other strategies are recommended for individualized guidance?

Create a mentorship committee of trusted advisors/mentors, if the department does not provide one.

  • Seek individuals with a positive outlook to gain useful perspectives.
  • Senior faculty with significant academic experiences may provide valuable guidance.
  • Current or past members of promotion and tenure committees may provide insight into how a department’s/school’s promotion and/or tenure committees assess the quality of evidence in P&T packages.
  • Faculty who recently went through the process are good resources for what worked or may not have worked.

7.     No one is telling me what I should be doing?

You must be your own advocate and accept responsibility for your own career development.

  • In your efforts, balance collaborations against demonstrating your independent value and contributions.
  • Talk to your chair or dean about forming a committee. They can offer good suggestions on how to go about it, if they have not already assigned you one.
  • Don’t wait be told what to do, be proactive.

8.     What should I document?

Check with your unit’s handbooks, but in general your P&T package must represent the sum of your work and achievements. You cannot submit documentation that you do not have. Therefore, thoroughly document activities in teaching, service, scholarly activity, and administration. The presentation, quality, and completeness of documentation is paramount.

  • Begin documentation (a portfolio) on day 1 of your academic career. In fact, you should have documented previous achievements already.
  • Some faculty activities may be non-traditional, without specific guidelines, and care must be taken to properly document them. If in doubt, talk with your chair or trusted senior faculty about how to document these activities. Also, remember that your letter of offer details your duties. Be sure to rigorously document how you are meeting these duties.
  • Document professional development, e.g., evidence of development in teaching, library service, committee membership, administrative activities, research, journal/grant reviewing, etc.

9.     My efforts in administration, teaching, or service inhibit my scholarly or research portfolio development.

Fostering a strong, supportive relationship with your chair is advantageous for your career development. Assigned effort may fulfill departmental needs but may not be optimal for your promotion and/or tenure. Therefore, work with your chair and/or mentoring committee if your assigned effort distribution, your goals for career advancement, and the requirements for promotion and tenure are not aligned.

  • Trusted mentors may provide additional guidance.


III. Beginning the Process

10.  I am ready to go up for promotion and/or tenure. Is there a recommended first step?

A best practice when applying for promotion and/or tenure is to provide a letter to your department chair to proactively make a case that you are ready for promotion and/or tenure. You should do this by summarizing your achievements. Rather than digging through a lengthy CV and other documents, you chair can utilize an accurate, concise summary as a readily-available source for the chair’s letter of support or when the chair solicits external reviewers. Also, you should be reviewed by a mentoring or promotions and tenure committee annually. Be ready to talk informally to them and the chair about how your progress matches with your tenure goals.

A well-crafted summary gives you an opportunity to shape and highlight your accomplishments and successes. Do your own SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of where you are in progress toward promotion and tenure, as defined by your assigned duties and departmental/school handbook. It is useful to have a trusted advisor/mentor review the materials with you prior to submission to the chair.


IV. Application Content

11.  Can I be creative or customize a promotion and/or tenure application?

It is necessary to exactly follow the prescribed guidelines in the university and unit handbooks as well as the Provost’s instructions thoroughly. Do not add unrequested items and definitely do not miss inclusion of a required item.

In some departments, e.g., Music or Art History, the artifacts that you present may be unique to that discipline. Talk to your chair and mentoring group about how to best present these. Also, talk to these individuals at the beginning of and throughout your career at UAB to consider how these unique artifacts should be gathered and presented.

12.  Should I have a strategy or style in mind when developing my documentation?

Assure all documentation of the promotion and/or tenure application is accurate, honest, and factual. Any error, embellishment, deception, or unsubstantiated material is detrimental and may result in significant adverse consequences.

  • In crafting any document for the promotion and/or tenure application, consider an institutional perspective of your value to the university mission. For example, how does this activity, goal, or effort fit with effectiveness in teaching, service, or scholarly activity?
  • The purpose of summarizing past achievements is not to document a historical record but to give a basis for prospective future performance. Promotion and tenure is not a reward for what you have done, but rather an investment in what the institution hopes you will do.
  • Provide context in your documents to aid a promotion and tenure committee if specific terminology in your field may convey an incorrect conclusion or lead to confusion.
  • Remember, the basis of promotion and tenure is your national prominence/excellence in your assigned duty areas and your ability to document that.

13.  How do I solicit letters from external reviewers?

You don’t. Your Chair will contact external reviewers; however, you will likely be able to suggest potential reviewers to the chair. Do not include individuals with whom you have a close personal (non-professional) relationship. External letters from peer/aspirant institutions are preferable. The Chair will determine the number of letters to solicit, in line with handbook requirements (Section 2.10), and the Chair will use those that best represent your achievements. The faculty member should never see the letters.   

14.  What do I need to know about the quality of the documentation?

  • Assure all documentation of the promotion and/or tenure application is accurate, honest, and factual. Any error, embellishment, deception, or unsubstantiated material is detrimental and may result in significant adverse consequences.
  • Assure all documents are aligned without contradiction including dates, references, etc.
  • Assure documents are located in the correct sections of the package application.
  • Spelling, grammar, format, and style should be thoroughly vetted.
  • Consider asking a trusted mentor to review your documents to avoid errors or omissions.

15.  Are years of service sufficient in earning promotion and/or tenure?

Years of teaching, service, or other activities are not in and of themselves enough to earn promotion and/or tenure. Rather, you must document the effectiveness, sustained contributions, and high-quality professional activities to document your meeting the requirements outlined in your school/college/department handbooks.

16.  Are there specific recommendations for documenting teaching effort?

  • Scholarship in teaching is highly desired to demonstrate contributions to the academic world.
  • Documentation of teaching effectiveness should be collected in an ongoing portfolio. Collect documentation of teaching activity comprehensively from the beginning of the academic appointment. The portfolio can later be organized and refined to carefully select items appropriate for inclusion in your curriculum vitae, personal statement, etc.
  • Utilize resources such as the UAB Center for Teaching and Learning, which provides professional and support programs to encourage teaching effectiveness and innovation.

17.  Are there specific recommendations for documenting service effort?

  • Strive for opportunities to develop scholarship within academic service to enhance your credentials.
  • Effectiveness of service effort should be documented. If serving on a committee or group, seek to document individual contributions when possible. Do this as an ongoing activity, and perhaps ask committee chairs to send you an annual letter documenting the service.
  • When considering the balance between internal and external service, consider that higher ranks require recognition at the national and international levels (Sections 2.6.3 and 2.6.4).
  • For purposes of promotion and/or tenure, acting as course director is not considered as service but rather a part of teaching. However, the creation of a new course of studies may be considered service.
  • Non-professional, non-academic, or other service activities unrelated to your academic duties should generally not be included in documentation of your service activity. However, these may be effectively highlighted in a personal statement, and these should likely be used if they appreciably enhance the University or department.

18.  Are there specific recommendations for documenting scholarly effort?

  • Scholarly activities include any endeavor that increase the body of knowledge relative to a discipline or promotes effective dissemination of such knowledge. While research is the most common scholarly activity for UAB faculty, other forms of scholarly activity exist.
  • The overall quality of scholarly activities is more important than the total quantity.
  • National and international recognition is important.

19.  If a negative decision is rendered by the chair/dean, is there a recourse?

An appeal can be made to the dean/Provost, if an application is turned down at the unit/dean level, respectively (Section 2.17). However, you should first understand the reasons resulting in a negative decision before considering future actions. Reviewing this with your trusted advisor/mentor, and the chair/dean may be very useful. Waiting another year may be prudent, especially if you apply in the early years of your appointment.

20.  Can a decision of the Dean/Provost separate the promotion and tenure decisions?

Yes, the P&T committee, chair, or dean may request separation of the two and the Provost may determine that promotion should be awarded, but tenure is not yet warranted. If the Provost makes such a decision, the applicant may apply for tenure in subsequent years, in accordance with the requirements of tenure-earning timelines described above.


V. Selected References

Burnham, Joy J, et al. “Top 10 Strategies for Preparing the Annual Tenure and Promotion Dossier.” Faculty Focus - Higher Ed Teaching & Learning, 26 Apr. 2016, www.facultyfocus.com/articles/faculty-evaluation/top-10-strategies-for-preparing-the-annual-tenure-and-promotion-dossier/.

Franz, Nancy K. “Tips for Constructing a Promotion and Tenure Dossier That Documents Engaged Scholarship Endeavors.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, vol. 15, no. 3, 2011, p. 15. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/edu_pubs/1/