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Tenure or permanent contracts in North American higher education?: A critical assessment

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Policy Futures in Education
Issue number3
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)286-297
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/01/08
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article offers a critical perspective on the academic tenure system in the
USA. Academic tenure is most frequently defended for the protection it affords freedom of speech in higher education, and it is attacked for its cost and lack of flexibility in a rapidly changing sector. The paper makes a third argument, that tenure sustains an unhealthy divide between tenured, untenured, and non-tenure-track staff members. It leads to differences in status, income, and job satisfaction that are inimical to basic principles of social justice. While financial considerations are a powerful factor in university efforts to constrain or challenge tenure, the maintenance of the tenure system and its use to control entry to permanent employment needs further examination. The author explores the system of ‘permanent’ contracts common in British and Australasian universities as an alternative for the USA – not because it benefits entrepreneurial university managers and administrators, but for its potential to offer a greater range of career positions for actual and potential staff members.