Enabling possibility: Reform of faculty appointments and evaluation

Insights Report

Most of the time, when we talk about how faculty are recruited, appointed, retained and promoted, we are discussing a problem.


Faculty appointment and evaluation systems at many institutions rely on definitions of excellence and patterns of work that do not reflect changing stakeholder needs, behaviors and realities. This paper examines how colleges and universities can reform relevant policies and practices in ways that advance their unique institutional missions and goals, including support for all faculty and demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Key Insights

  • Higher education leaders can reimagine faculty appointment and reward systems as critical enablers of institutional missions and faculty careers.
  • Generally, reforms of such systems aim to improve transparency, clarity and consistency; align institutional mission and reward systems; expand measures of impact; and enhance flexibility, accountability and equity.
  • Three types of reforms of faculty appointment and reward systems are emerging that accomplish these goals: multiple pathways to tenure, tenure by objectives, and stronger employment conditions for non-tenure track faculty.
  • Key institutional goals such as teaching excellence; diversity, equity and inclusion; and academic leadership were effectively supported by the reforms.

Faculty appointment and evaluation systems can be levers that enable institutional missions and faculty to flourish.


The author outlines three types of faculty appointment and evaluation reforms that can benefit both faculty and institutions: setting multiple pathways to tenure, creating a tenure-by-objectives system, and strengthening the employment conditions of non-tenure-track systems.

Enabling possibility: Reform of faculty appointments and evaluation


KerryAnn O'Meara

University of Maryland

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