Professional Development

Tenure & Promotion Guidelines

This document presents University of South Florida guidelines for the tenure and promotion process consistent with the Board of Trustees regulations USF10.105 and USF10.106, USF System policy 10.116, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and with the intent of furthering the mission of the University. Criteria for tenure and promotion, specifying documented and measurable performance outcomes, must be developed by individual colleges and departments, commensurate with expectations articulated in this document.

USF Tenure & Promotion Guidelines, Effective July 1, 2020 (PDF)
This document presents the same guidelines and criteria listed on this webpage in a PDF format.

Branch campus faculty with three years of tenure-earning credit on July 1, 2019 will be considered for tenure under their old regional campus guidelines unless they elect to use the new consolidated guidelines in writing 30 days prior to the beginning of tenure consideration. This is required in Article 15.4.B of the USF UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement.

USF Tenure & Promotion Guidelines, Effective July 15, 2014 (PDF)
This document was revised prior to consolidation and the new version went into effect on July 1, 2020.


Tenure for faculty with tenure-earning appointments and promotion in the professorial ranks will be granted only to persons who demonstrate excellence in scholarly and academic achievement. Performance is evaluated specifically in the areas of teaching/instructional effort toward student learning, research/creative/scholarly activity, and service. In addition, participation as a citizen of the University is an integral part of faculty performance.

The academic units of the University will define criteria for tenure and promotion according to the standards of their respective fields and disciplines, with specific expectations for types and levels of achievement and how they will be measured and documented. Tenure and promotion guidelines at all levels are expected to recognize and value contributions that support USF’s prevailing strategic priorities. Academic units may specify more stringent standards than those articulated herein but may not specify less stringent standards. However, deans may apply to the institution’s designated senior academic officer for variance in exceptional cases.


Expectations of Tenured Faculty

In order for the University to perform its functions effectively, it is essential that faculty members be free to express new ideas and divergent viewpoints in their teaching and research. In the process of teaching and research, there must be freedom to question and challenge accepted “truths.” A university must create an atmosphere that encourages faculty members to develop and share different ideas and divergent views and to make inquiries unbounded by present norms. Tenure contributes significantly to the creation of such an atmosphere.

At the same time, in providing for “annual reappointment until voluntary resignation, retirement, or removal for ‘just cause’ or layoff” (USF System Regulation USF10.105), tenure is not an unconditional guarantee of lifelong employment. The granting of tenure is a privilege that carries enormous responsibility within the academic unit, the college, the University, and broader academic community. This responsibility includes maintenance of the highest academic standards, continued scholarly productivity, sustained teaching excellence, and ongoing beneficial service carried out in the spirit of University citizenship.

Evaluation for Tenure

Evaluation for tenure involves three components appropriate to the unit:

  • Teaching or comparable activity designed to promote student learning (including advising, mentoring, and community engaged instruction)
  • Research/creative/scholarly work (including community-engaged scholarship)
  • Service to the University, the profession, and the community.

Because the decision projects lifetime performance from the first few years of a faculty member’s career, tenure must be awarded only as a result of rigorous assessment over a period of time sufficient to judge the faculty member’s documented accomplishments, ability, and probability of sustained future productivity. A judgment must be made that the faculty member’s record represents a pattern indicative of a lifetime of continued accomplishment and productivity with potential for high impact on the field or society. Each recommendation for tenure should be accompanied by a statement of the mission, goals and educational needs of the department and college and the importance of the contributions the candidate has made and is expected to make in the future toward achieving the mission and goals and meeting the educational needs of the unit and the University. Careful consideration must also be given both to the equitability of the candidate’s assignment and opportunities in relation to others in the department/unit and to the candidate’s ability and willingness to work cooperatively within the department, college, and/or campus.

Integral to the mission and vision of USF is commitment to engagement with its communities. As defined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, “community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, [international,] global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”1 While some faculty engagement may come in the form of public service as such, any of the three categories of faculty activity could entail community engagement, and any could in some way “address critical societal issues and contribute to the public good.” Community engagement that is undertaken by faculty to “enhance curriculum, teaching and learning and prepare educated, engaged citizens” may be included and evaluated as part of teaching, and community engagement undertaken to “enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity” may be included and evaluated as part of a research/creative/scholarly faculty assignment.

A. Teaching

The first component in the tenure decision process is an evaluation of effectiveness in teaching or comparable activity appropriate for the unit. As discussed in these guidelines, teaching effectiveness is understood to be fundamentally grounded in demonstrable student learning outcomes. Each candidate must present a record of effectiveness in teaching as specified by the relevant academic unit and reflected in field-appropriate learning outcomes. The record of activities leading to tenure and promotion must provide evidence of excellence in teaching. It is therefore vital that substantial and diverse evidence of teaching effectiveness be presented as part of the tenure application.

Effective teaching – to be understood throughout this document as activity that results in learning for those taught – requires a thorough knowledge of the subject; the ability to communicate that knowledge clearly through media appropriate to the subject, discipline, and the needs of students; and the ability to work with, motivate, and serve as a positive role model for students. Teaching performance is best judged by a comprehensive review of the teaching portfolio, and it is essential that the chair, dean, or other appropriate administrator also conduct an appropriate and independent evaluative review.

In addition to course syllabi and student evaluations, a candidate may present the following kinds of documentation of teaching effectiveness: instructional materials (such as case studies, labs, discussion prompts, group projects); assessment activities and products (such as papers, tests, performances, problem sets), and other material used in connection with courses; student performance on pre- and post-instruction measures and other evidence of attainment of learning outcomes; exemplary student work and outcomes; peer observations and evaluations; certifications and other formal evidence of teaching effectiveness; teaching awards; new course development, course redesign, and adaptation to new formats and media through incorporation of emerging technologies; records of advising and mentoring; supervision of teaching and research assistants; thesis direction; and professional development activities and efforts at improvement.

Approaches to teaching and concomitant sources of evidence of teaching effectiveness may vary across fields, units, and candidates; consequently, variance in candidate portfolios may also be expected.

Evaluation of teaching must take into consideration an academic unit’s instructional mission; the candidate’s assigned duties within the unit; class size, scope, and sequence within the curriculum; as well as format of delivery and the types of instructional media utilized. Evaluation of teaching effectiveness should consider the wide range of factors that impact student learning and success. Moreover, effective teaching and its impact on learning can take place in a variety of contexts: in campus classrooms; team teaching; online; in the field; in clinical settings; workshops; panels; through service learning activities, community engagement and internships; in laboratories; within on- and off-campus communities, in organizations, in education abroad settings, such as field schools, and through mentoring of students, including undergraduate and graduate student research. Evaluation of teaching effectiveness in formats and settings outside the classroom should include consideration of the expected impact of student learning on practice, application, and policy.

B. Research/Creative/Scholarly Work

Scholarship takes many forms, including independently conducted research and/or creative works and collaboratively generated contributions to the knowledge base, community improvement or the arts. These activities in various disciplines across the University of South Florida range from research (creation and attainment of new knowledge, whether basic or applied) to creation of artistic products. The purpose of research and creative scholarship is the substantive advancement of a field of inquiry or practice, whether by generation of new knowledge or production of new creative works and technologies. The record of activities leading to tenure and promotion must provide evidence of excellence in one or more of these forms. In order to attain tenure, a faculty member is expected to have established an original, coherent and meaningful program of research and/or creative scholarship and to have demonstrated and clearly documented a continuous and progressive record of research and creative scholarship indicative of potential for sustained contribution throughout his or her career.

The peer review process is the best means of judging quality and impact of the candidate’s research and creative scholarship. Evaluation at the unit level should include an assessment of the quality of the candidate’s work and consider discipline-appropriate evidence of the significance of research and creative activity, as well as the candidate’s assignment of duties within unit. A candidate may present the following kinds of documentation of a significant research program: reviews of books and articles; records of competitive honors and awards, grants, and fellowships; criticism and reviews of creative work; reviews of grant applications; citations of the candidate’s work; evidence of impact on policy and practice; the quality and significance of journals, series, and presses by which the candidate’s work is published or of other venues in which it appears; invited, refereed, or non-refereed status of publications; research awards and acknowledgments; and invitations and commissions. As with teaching portfolios, the kinds of documentation will vary among fields, units, and individuals, and candidates should not be expected to include forms of documentation that are not typical in their disciplines, but they must provide appropriate documentation to support and validate claims about their work.

Where appropriate, consideration will be given to external peer recognition, as demonstrated by a record of funded research, and to the demonstrable impact of research through inventions, development and commercialization of intellectual property, and technology transfer, including, but not limited to, disclosures, patents, and licenses. Objective peer review of the candidate’s work by scholars/experts external to the University is required. In addition, the candidate’s chair or director and dean must conduct independent evaluative reviews.

It is noted that in some areas of scholarship, publications or other products may appear only after lengthy or extensive effort and may appear in a wider range of venues, both of which can be particularly true of community- engaged and/or interdisciplinary work at the local, national and/or international levels. Community-engaged scholarship may be demonstrated by high- profile products such as reports to local, national, or international agencies and formal presentations, or by other products as designated by the unit, as well as by peer review.

For collaborative and coauthored scholarship, the evaluation should include consideration of the candidate’s role and contribution to the work, consistent with disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary scholarly practice. The body of work of a candidate for tenure must be judged against the appropriate standards within the area of research 

and creative scholarship, balancing the significance, quality, and impact of the contribution with the quantity of publications and other scholarly products. Recommendations for tenure should present a clear and compelling case for the merit of an application in the context of the kind of scholarship in which the candidate’s work has been conducted, leading to high confidence in the candidate’s prospects for continuing and meaningful contributions.

C. Service

The third component to be evaluated includes the categories of service to the University, the professional field or discipline, and engagement with the community. Candidates for tenure must have made substantive contributions in one or more of these areas. Evaluation of administrative and other professional services to the University, including service on the USF Faculty Senate and Councils, should go beyond a simple enumeration to include an evaluation of the extent and quality of the services rendered. Public service may include work for professional organizations and local, state, federal or international agencies and institutions. It must relate to the basic mission of the University and capitalize on the faculty member’s special professional expertise; the normal service activities associated with good citizenship are not usually evaluated as part of the tenure and promotion process.

Because of the diverse missions of different units and variations in the extent and character of their interaction with external groups, general standards of public and professional service will vary across units. Evaluation of service will include an examination of the nature and degree of engagement within the University and in the local, regional, national and global communities. Service to the community is differentiated from engagement with communities and external organizations that is undertaken in support of teaching (community-engaged instruction) or of research/creative/scholarly work (community- engaged scholarship).


Evaluation for Promotion

This section applies to ranked faculty, whether tenured or non-tenured. As in the case of tenure, the judgment of readiness for promotion to higher academic rank is based upon a careful evaluation of a candidate’s contributions in teaching and student learning (or comparable expectations appropriate to the unit and the candidate’s appointment), research/creative/scholarly work, and service. The sections pertinent to evaluation of these factors for the tenure decision apply as well to promotion.

The evaluation refers to written department- and college-level criteria for promotion that have been made available to candidates. Promotion also requires participation as a productive citizen of the University, as this is an integral part of faculty performance and is also evaluated with reference to written criteria. General standards for consideration of appointment to the ranks of Assistant Professor or Assistant University Librarian, Associate Professor or Associate University Librarian, and Professor or University Librarian (or their equivalents) are as follows. In each category, a candidate’s achievements are evaluated in relation to criteria specified by the unit for the rank sought as well as the candidate’s assignment of duties and opportunities within the unit.

A. Assistant Professor (or Assistant Librarian)
  • Promise of continued growth in teaching, librarianship, and other comparable activities appropriate for the unit.
  • Promise of independent and/or collaborative research/creative/scholarly work supported by publications or other appropriate evidence.
  • Promise of substantive contributions in the area of service and citizenship to the University, profession, and/or public.
  • The doctorate or the highest degree appropriate to the field (or, where appropriate, the equivalent based on professional experience consistent with accreditation standards).
B. Associate Professor (or Associate Librarian)
  • A record of excellence in teaching, librarianship, or other comparable activities appropriate for the unit, including a record of such activities as participation on thesis and/or dissertation committees and successful direction of the work of master’s and doctoral candidates, where applicable.
  • A record of excellence in independent and/or collaborative research/creative/scholarly work, supported by substantial, high impact and sustained publications or their equivalent. Categories, criteria, and types of evidence for research/creative/scholarly work may vary across colleges and departments. Thus, original or creative work of a professional nature may be considered as equivalent to publications. Evaluation of applied research should consider potential or actual impact on policies and practices.
  • The record should be sufficient to predict, with a high degree of confidence, continuing productivity in research/creative/scholarly work throughout the individual’s career, as defined in the individual’s field.
  • A record of substantive contribution of service to the University, profession, and/or public.
  • For faculty on tenure-track appointments, advancement to the Associate level is made simultaneously with granting of tenure.
C. Professor (or University Librarian)
  • A record of excellence in teaching, librarianship, or other comparable activity appropriate for the unit, including, where applicable, a record of participation on thesis and/or dissertation committees, and as major professor for undergraduate research/theses and/or master’s and doctoral candidates.
  • A record of excellence in research/creative/scholarly work of at least national visibility, of demonstrated quality supported by a record of substantial publications or their equivalent. Categories, criteria, and types of evidence for research/creative/scholarly work may vary across colleges and departments. Thus, original or creative work may be considered as equivalent to publications. Evaluation of applied research should consider potential or actual impact on policies and practices. The record should predict continuing high productivity in research/creative/scholarly work throughout the individual’s career, as defined in the individual’s field.
  • A record of substantial contribution of service to the University and to the field, profession or community as appropriate to the mission and goals of the department, the college and/or the University. Expectations about the level of meaningful service contributions for candidates for Professor (or University Librarian) are significantly higher than those that apply to candidates for Associate Professor (or Associate Librarian).
  • Compelling evidence of significant achievement among peers in the individual’s discipline or professional field at the national or international level. Any recommendation for promotion to the rank of Professor (or University Librarian) must contain evidence of such distinction, as relevant to the unit. 

Alternative Promotional Pathways

Subject to higher-level administrative approval, individual units may establish alternative faculty pathways that are not tenure-earning but that allow for promotion through faculty ranks based on specified criteria appropriate to the unit (e.g. with varying emphasis on research, teaching, practice or performance) and the candidate’s assignment of duties. Faculty on these pathways are expected to contribute within any or all of these areas, though in the ways and with distribution of emphasis as specified by the unit.


Probationary Period for Tenure

Traditionally, candidates for tenure have applied early in the sixth year of full-time employment. However, in consideration of expectations for achievement by faculty in relation to contemporary levels and types of demand on faculty effort, constraints in internal and external resources available to faculty to support scholarly productivity, and a changing national landscape, a college may, with the approval of the institution’s designated senior academic officer overseeing the college, choose to define a longer probationary period in order to ensure the University’s opportunity to realize the benefit of significant investment in new faculty.

Regardless of the length of the probationary period, candidates for tenure will be expected to demonstrate ongoing productivity and progress; expectations of progress within normal time frames will be reflected in established annual and comprehensive review processes, but candidates may apply when ready, as specified in the following section.

Timing of Applications

Following an initial period in rank, normally at least two years, a candidate for tenure may apply earlier than the last year of the probationary period or, for promotion, earlier than the normal point for advancement in rank, when there is clear evidence that he or she has fully met the applicable criteria and has received endorsement at both department and college levels; additional merit beyond normal criteria for advancement, specified clearly in unit tenure and promotion documents, should not be required.

Exceptions to the Standard Probationary Period

  1. General exceptions
    Ordinarily, a faculty member in a tenure-earning position will either be awarded tenure at the end of the probationary period or be given one-year notice that further employment will not be offered. However, exceptions to the tenure clock may be considered, such as medical exigencies or parental situations covered by FMLA or ADA legislation or other extenuating circumstances approved by the University or as specified in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. A tenure- earning faculty member under such circumstances may request an extension of his or her probationary period. The request must be made in writing and must be approved by the chair of the department, dean, and the institution’s designated senior academic officer overseeing the candidate’s unit. Ordinarily, extensions of more than two years beyond the college’s designated probationary period will not be permitted.
  2. Exceptions pursuant to University reorganization
    The University may establish exceptions to the tenure clock in response to changes in University structure that result in faculty becoming subject to substantial differences in performance expectations.

Tenure Upon Initial Appointment

In rare circumstances, tenure may be awarded upon initial appointment. In determining such an award, the guiding principle will be to follow department and college procedures in an expedited process that will not inordinately delay hiring decisions. Specifically, there must be review of tenure eligibility at all levels, with a recommendation forwarded to the institution’s designated senior academic officer overseeing the candidate’s unit. Approval must be obtained from the senior academic officer prior to making an offer that includes tenure without a probationary period. In support of recommendations for tenure upon initial appointment, the senior academic officer will receive the following information:

  • A written statement(s) of review of tenure eligibility at all levels (dean, chair, department faculty); rigorous reviews must occur prior to a request to the senior academic officer to make such an offer;
  • The candidate’s vita;
  • The official starting date for the position, a draft of the letter of offer, which has explicit mention of the tenure offer, pending Board of Trustees approval;
  • A compelling statement on the unique achievements of the faculty member that serve as the basis for tenure

Upon approval, the University President will forward the tenure recommendation to the Board of Trustees for approval at the earliest meeting at which tenure upon appointment is considered. Persons being considered for administrative appointments accompanied by academic appointments with tenure will interview with the academic unit in which tenure would be considered; and the appropriate dean, the appropriate faculty bodies, and administrators will make recommendations on tenure to the senior academic officer.


Review of progress toward tenure

It is the responsibility of the department chair or other appropriate administrator and department peer committee, where constituted, to include a progress toward tenure review as part of the annual evaluation for all faculty in the probationary period for tenure. A more rigorous and extensive pre-tenure review will be conducted at the approximate mid-point of the probationary period. The review will refer to written department- and college-level criteria for tenure that have been made available to candidates. The mid-point review will be conducted
by the department’s tenure and promotion (or appointment, promotion, and tenure) committee, the department chairperson or other appropriate administrator, the college tenure and promotion committee, and the college dean. A summary review of progress toward tenure will be forwarded to the institution’s designated senior academic officer overseeing the candidate’s unit.

All mid-point reviews shall address the performance of annual assignments including teaching, research/creative/ scholarly activity, and service occurring during the preceding tenure-earning years of employment. In addition, all reviews should critically assess overall performance and contributions in light of mid-point expectations. The mid-point review will be based on documentation of performance, including: a current vita; annual evaluations; student/peer evaluation of teaching; selected examples of teaching materials; products of research/scholarship/ creative activity; service commitments and accomplishments; and a brief self-evaluation by the faculty member. The mid-point review is intended to be informative and encouraging to faculty who are making solid progress toward tenure; instructional to faculty who may need to improve in selected areas of performance; or, where progress is significantly lacking and apparently unlikely, bluntly cautionary about the potential for dismissal.

Review of Progress Toward Promotion

The annual performance review for a faculty member holding a rank below that of full Professor (or University Librarian) will normally include an evaluation of progress toward promotion. At approximately the mid-point of the typical interval between appointment to the Associate Professor (or Associate Librarian) level and promotion to full Professor (or University Librarian) for faculty in the unit, faculty members will ordinarily be given a more comprehensive review of progress toward promotion, to include participation by the relevant tenure and promotion committees. The candidate may request additional review by a more senior academic officer. A review at this stage is intended to be informative: to be encouraging to faculty who are making solid progress toward promotion, and instructional to faculty who may need to improve in selected areas of performance.

External Letters for Tenure and Promotion Applications

The department chair ordinarily will include in the tenure and promotion packet a minimum of three letters (but not exceeding six) from external reviewers who are recognized experts in the individual’s field or a related scholarly field inside or outside of academe; ideally, these will hold senior tenured appointments within at least aspirational peer institutions. The candidate and the department chair or other appropriate unit administrator will suggest external reviewers, and either may submit a list of reviewers who should be disqualified for professional reasons.

The department Tenure and Promotion Committee may also suggest external reviewers. These reviewers should have no significant relationship to the candidate (e.g., major professor or co- author), unless there are mitigating circumstances that would indicate otherwise (e.g., to review scholarship so specialized that few expert reviewers exist). The chair or other appropriate administrator and the candidate will jointly select the reviewers. In the event of disagreement, each party will select one-half the number of qualified reviewers to be utilized. The content of all solicited letters that are received from external reviewers should be in the candidate’s file prior to the final recommendations by the department Tenure and Promotion Committee.


Number & Type of Committees

At the unit level, full-time faculty will determine the role of the unit review committee in developing recommendations for tenure and promotion. Procedures will be specified in unit governance documents. The number and types of review and, as applicable, voting prior to submission to the senior academic officer will be similar throughout the University and should occur at the following levels or their equivalent: department review committee; department faculty; chair; college review committee; dean.

Tenure and Promotion Committee Membership

When establishing a unit Tenure and Promotion Committee, a unit should adhere to the following criteria whenever possible and practical:

  1. Membership on committees is limited to faculty who have been appointed within the unit for at least two years;
  2. Committees considering candidates for promotion to Professor will comprise individuals holding the rank of Professor. If the unit lacks a sufficient number, the unit head may appoint one or more qualified Professors from other units, in consideration of recommendation by the eligible full-time faculty at the full or associate level in the unit;
  3. Only those members who have received tenure at the University of South Florida will be eligible to review and make recommendations on tenure applications;
  4. Recommendations for the awarding of tenure are made by the employee’s supervisor and include a poll by secret ballot of the unit’s eligible tenured members, who are expected to review the application files prior to voting;
  5. Non-tenure-track faculty may serve on committees evaluating applications of non- tenure-track faculty at lower ranks;
  6. Review of applications from faculty with joint appointments should reflect appropriate participation by the units to which faculty have been appointed. Thus, chairs/deans from secondary units should have proportional input on review and recommendations, and committees reviewing applications from faculty with joint appointments should have equitable representation from respective units based on the distribution of assignment;
  7. Chairs, directors and deans should neither vote nor participate on any tenure and promotion committee; this exclusion applies to assistant or associate chairs, directors, or deans when they participate in the tenure and promotion process in support of, or as delegated by chairs, directors or deans;
  8. Terms of committee members should be staggered and ordinarily should not exceed three years;
  9. Turnover of committee membership should be encouraged through restrictions on consecutive terms, if feasible;
  10. Individuals serving on more than one advisory committee (e.g., department, school, or college) will vote at only one level but may advise on another;
  11. In instances where units are geographically distributed, unit procedures should include methods to ensure equitable and appropriate participation by faculty throughout the unit in recommendations for tenure and promotion.
  12. All members of tenure and promotion committees are expected to review the application files prior to discussion, or voting. Procedures to ensure participation by all committee members (or, as needed, alternates) in the process are established and followed at all levels of review. Following a vote by secret ballot, the ballots are counted immediately in the presence of committee members, and the tally is recorded. Written narratives from majority and dissenting minorities, if any, may be included with the record.

Executive Advisory Committees

In consultation with deans and the Faculty Senate, a senior academic officer responsible for preparing recommendations to the University President regarding tenure and promotion may appoint an Executive Tenure and Promotion Advisory Committee to provide selective review and consultation in preparation of such recommendations. This committee, comprising a broadly representative group of full Professors with acknowledged distinction, will not constitute an additional level of review but will function only as advisory within the existing review process at that level. Terms, scope, and internal working procedures will be determined collaboratively between the committee and the appointing officer.