Tenure Review Primer for Chairs

Updated in November 2020.

1 Policy & Templates

2 “Normal” Tenure Timeline

See Section 21 for Delays and Early Review.

The initial appointment of a faculty member to the tenure stream is normally six years, which consists of two components: an initial four-year appointment and a subsequent two-year renewal contingent on the successful outcome of an Interim Review. The candidate’s original tenure timeline will be set out in the Letter of Offer.

3 Relevant Dates

The timelines below will apply to all faculty appointed after July 1, 2015.1

  • The unit head should “ensure that those members of the teaching staff who must be considered for tenure in the spring term of an academic year are identified in the previous May” (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 14 i)
  • The candidate should be informed of the review process and asked to prepare materials: “normally no later than June 30” [It is the responsibility of the unit head to notify the candidate] (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 14 ii)
  • “Candidates should normally be provided with a period of at least 6 weeks in which to assemble and prepare the documentation required” (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 14 ii)
  • “Candidates will not normally be asked to submit research dossier prior to July 1” (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 14 ii)
  • Candidate informed of membership of Tenure Committee — “This notification will normally happen in the fall.” [This correspondence and acknowledgement should be included in the tenure file.] (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 14 iii)
  • Summary of evidence provided to candidate “normally at least one week prior to the first meeting of the tenure committee.” (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 14 iv)
  • Candidate informed of recommendation: “not later than April 15.” (PPAA, 2015, Part II, 10)

This information concerning tenure review timelines is also presented visually in the following diagram:

1 Timelines to tenure changed in 2015, reflecting revisions to the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments. All faculty appointed after July 1, 2015 are governed by the revised policy.

4 Composition of the Tenure Committee

Number of MembersComposition


Dean of the School of Graduate Studies or their representative.

Dean of Faculty or their representative (replaced by additional tenured faculty member in case of Single Department Faculty).

4 tenured faculty (at least 2 from academic unit).

(PPAA, 2015, Part III, 14)

8 in the following cases

plus Graduate chair — If different from the Department chair (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 14)

plus Chair of unit holding budgetary cross-appointment (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 18)

  • Membership is shared with the candidate “normally in the fall”
  • This correspondence with the candidate must be included in the tenure file

2 The Chair of the Department (or Dean of a non-departmental Faculty) shall chair the tenure committee. Only in exceptional circumstances should an alternate serve and only then with the written approval of the Dean (for a Chair) and the Provost.” (PDAD&C #134, 4 a)

5 Criteria for Tenure

  • “Tenured appointments should be granted on the basis of three essential criteria:
    1. achievement in research and creative professional work
    2. effectiveness in teaching, and
    3. clear promise of future intellectual and professional development. Contributions in the area of university service may constitute a fourth factor in the tenure decision but should not, in general, receive a particularly significant weighting.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 13)
  • “Clear promise of future intellectual and professional development must be affirmed for tenure to be awarded. Demonstrated excellence in one of research (including equivalent and creative or professional work) and teaching, and clearly established competence in the other, form the second essential requirement for a positive judgment by the tenure committee.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 13) See subsections a to d for details.

6 Application of the Criteria

  • “All members of the tenure committee must specifically address the criteria for tenure; ensure that in the case of a positive recommendation the case for tenure is fully supported by the evidence presented by the candidate; and be persuaded that the candidate meets the criteria stated in the Policy. Where the candidate fails to meet one or more of the criteria, tenure must be denied. When all of the criteria are found to be met, tenure should be recommended.” (PDAD&C #134, 4 d)

7 Materials Gathered by the Candidate

8 Materials Gathered by the Chair

9 The Teaching Evaluation Committee

Number of MembersComposition
2“a committee of at least two people who are in a position to evaluate the teaching of the candidate carefully and rigorously” (PDAD&C #134, 3 b)

2 members to produce a single signed report — membership not shared with candidate
  • The committee should receive the student letters solicited by the Chair
  • The committee should assess teaching using the relevant Teaching Evaluation Guidelines: “Your approved divisional guidelines have the force of policy.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 b i)
  • “Three major elements should be considered in assessing the effectiveness of a candidate’s teaching: the degree to which he or she is able to stimulate and challenge the intellectual capacity of students; the degree to which the candidate has an ability to communicate well; and the degree to which the candidate has a mastery of his or her subject area.” (PPAA, 2015, 13 b)
  • “The judgment that the candidate’s teaching meets or does not meet the standard of competence or excellence must have a clear basis.” “In the cases where the evaluation committee is of the view that there is excellence in teaching it is important that the grounds for this view be explicit.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 b)

10 The Internal Reading Committee

Number of MembersComposition
22 members who should submit a single signed report — membership not shared with candidate

“Each member of the internal committee should be competent to review the research dossier carefully and rigorously.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 a)

11 External Letters (External Referee Reports / Assessments)

At least 6“A well documented file will contain six or more external references of which at least three are from outside of the candidate’s list.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 c)
Including at least one from the candidate’s list“the candidate should be invited to nominate several external referees” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 15 ii)

“the division head or chair should solicit letters of reference from at least one of them” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 15 ii)
Including more than one from Chair’s listChair should also solicit external letters “from one or more additional specialists chosen by himself or herself.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 15 ii)
  • “Normally, written specialist assessments of the candidate’s work should also be obtained from outside the University” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 15, ii)
  • “Referees should be individuals of international stature in their field and will normally be distinguished senior members of the faculty of universities which are major centres of activity in the candidate’s field.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 c)
  • “The dossier forwarded to the Provost’s Office should contain a list of the referees proposed by the candidate and of those selected by the Chair and a brief explanation of the basis of choice of all of the referees who were selected and their qualifications.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 c)
  • External referees should be chosen for their ability to “judge the quality of the candidate’s work at arm’s length.” Similarly, those who have collaborated or acted as co PI’s with the candidate should not serve on internal reading, teaching committees or the tenure committee. (PDAD&C #134, 3 c)

12 Collaborators’ Statements

  • It is essential, where the candidate has collaborators, to ask the collaborators to comment on the accuracy of the candidate’s description of “the nature of the collaboration and the nature and extent of the candidate’s contribution.” (PDAD&C #134, 3 a)

13 Solicited Student Letters

14 Colleague Letters


15 Conflict of Interest

  • All participants in the tenure review process must be able to provide an unbiased evaluation of the candidate’s work.
  • External referees should be chosen for their ability to “judge the quality of the candidate’s work at arm’s length.” Similarly, those who have collaborated or acted as co-principal investigators (PIs) with the candidate should not serve on internal reading, teaching committees or the tenure committee. (PDAD&C #134, 3 c)
  • Where a potential conflict of interest is discovered during the tenure review process, the tenure committee should carefully and substantively consider how significant the conflict is. The Statement of Reasons should reflect the committee’s reasoning and how it impacted their assessment of the tenure dossier.

16 Summary of Evidence (SOE)

  • “The division [unit] head or chair shall prepare and provide a written summary of the content of the above appraisals and evaluation, without identifying their source, to the candidate at the time of submission of the dossier to the tenure committee normally at least one week prior to the first meeting of the tenure committee.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 14 iv)
  • “It is important that the summary be sufficiently detailed that the candidate knows the evidence before the committee and could, if desired, supplement the dossier with a written response, or by appearing before the committee to make a statement. The summary should include extracts of any significant information from all letters and reports while maintaining confidentiality.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 14 iv)
  • It is important that the summary of evidence include:
    • Negative as well as positive comments / conclusions
    • An accurate reflection of the views of specific reviewers

The summary of evidence should not reach a conclusion regarding excellence or competence, or future promise.

  • Please follow the Tenure Dossier Checklist when compiling the tenure dossier.
  • Units may share tenure dossiers with Tenure Committee members either as hard copy (the traditional approach), or through specific alternative (electronic) mechanisms
  • The preeminent concern is that the integrity and confidentiality of tenure dossiers be maintained
  • The only two ways in which soft copies may be made available to tenure Committee members are by using a specific encrypted high-security memory key, an IronKey memory key, or through a folder created on OneDrive to which access has been given to only committee members. Please see the guidelines for specifics.
  • The version of the tenure dossier that is submitted to the Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life for Provostial review and final decision by the President must be exactly the same as the version of the materials that were made available to the members of the Tenure Committee.

18 Tenure Committee Meets

  • All members of the Tenure Committee must be physically present.

19 Vote

  • “Voting is to be by private ballot. When the voting is concluded, the chair of the tenure committee will announce to the committee how each member of the committee voted, and the total number of votes for and against the granting of tenure. If there are more than two negative votes or abstentions, this constitutes a decision to recommend that tenure not be granted.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 16)
  • “The decision must be taken on the basis of the evidence available at the time of the meeting and should be reasonable in light of the standards that were generally applied in the division in recent years.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 16)
  • “A recommendation to grant tenure must be approved by at least five of the seven members of the committee, or six of eight members of the committee in cases where the department chair and the graduate chair are not the same person.” (PPAA, 2015, Part III, 16)

20 Statement of Reasons (SOR)

  • The SOR should go beyond presenting excerpts from the tenure dossier and should fully outline the reasons for the decision of the tenure committee.
  • Tenure should be awarded on the basis of the information in the dossier. If new evidence, not in the dossier, is considered by the tenure committee, the candidate should be made aware of it in a revised summary of evidence.

21 Adjustments to Tenure Timeline

  • Provisions in policy allow for tenure stream faculty to apply for early review or a delay in their review timeline. The Provost must approve all changes to a faculty member’s tenure timeline. Any potential adjustments to a candidate’s tenure timeline should first be discussed with the unit head (i.e., Chair, Director, or Dean in the case of a Single Department Faculty).

Changes to a faculty member’s time to tenure do not affect tenure criteria or expectations.

a) Early Review

  • “In exceptional circumstances, with the approval of the division head and the Vice-President and Provost, a candidate may be considered for tenure earlier…” (PPAA, 2015, II.10)

b) Tenure Delay

  • The original tenure timeline will be set out in the Letter of Offer.
  • The PPAA, 2015 includes a provision for pre-tenure faculty to request a tenure delay. Faculty members who are experiencing a significant life event that might warrant a tenure delay should speak to their unit head as soon as possible.
    • “Candidates may make a written request for a delay in the interim review or consideration for tenure based on pregnancy and/or parental or adoption leave or serious personal circumstances beyond their control such as illness or injury or damage to their research facilities. Delays may be granted for one year but not more than 2 years with the approval in writing of the Vice-President and Provost.
    • Written requests by a candidate for further delays based on the provisions of Ontario Human Rights Code as amended from time to time (the “Code”) will be considered by the Vice-President and Provost on a case-by-case basis, it being understood and agreed that such requests must be made by the candidate in writing at the earliest opportunity in the interim review or consideration for tenure process (i.e. as soon as a candidate knows or reasonably ought to know that their interim year review or consideration for tenure may warrant a delay based on the provisions of the Code.)” (PPAA, 2015, Section II.10)

c) Tenure Delay versus Employment leave

  • An application for a tenure delay is separate from any application for employment leave (e.g. parental leave). Faculty taking, for example, a parental leave who also wish to request a tenure delay must apply for a tenure delay separately.
  • Faculty and librarians could find out more about employment leaves by logging into their Human Resources Service Centre portal.

d) Clarifying the New Timeline

  • If a candidate’s request for tenure delay is approved, the unit head will communicate the adjusted timeline to the candidate in writing.