Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Promotion for Teaching-Track Faculty

The information below is for candidates and chairpersons. 
See also promotion dossier deadlines and links to helpful documents.


Recommendations of faculty advancement are taken with the utmost seriousness, and are investigated with great care. General guidelines dictate that a candidate shall have been a full-time member of the teaching-track faculty in a given rank for six or more years, although exceptions may be made in special cases. Should a teaching-track faculty member be recommended for promotion and fail to be promoted, no rule or expectation holds that he or she shall leave the faculty. A member of the teaching-track faculty who is not promoted in a given year may be recommended again after a suitable period. The department of a candidate who is not promoted should promptly work with that candidate on a program to improve relevant aspects of his or her record.

Criteria for Appointment and Promotion

Assistant Professor of Instruction

A PhD, MFA, or other appropriate terminal degree is typically required (for language instruction a Master’s degree in an appropriate discipline may be regarded as an appropriate terminal degree if the candidate has significant teaching experience).

For appointment the candidate must possess the following qualifications:

Associate Professor of Instruction

A PhD or MFA is typically required (for language instruction a Master’s degree in an appropriate discipline may be regarded as an appropriate terminal degree if the candidate has twelve or more years of relevant experience).

The candidate must possess the following qualifications:

Professor of Instruction

A PhD or MFA is almost always required In addition, the candidate must meet ALL of the following qualifications:

These titles would be available to WCAS, non-tenure line faculty members who have full-time multi-year teaching appointments regarded as 'continuing appointments'. They are not intended for individuals whose duties are not primarily instructional.

We would expect that any initial appointment at the rank of Assistant-, Associate-, or full Professor of Instruction would have a contract length of two years (6 quarters in service at NU) in order to establish a record of strong teaching and service in Weinberg College. Subsequent appointments typically would be four or five years, depending on rank.

Early promotion is possible; however, a minimum of six completed quarters of service in Weinberg College will be required prior to application for promotion.

Review of Position

If the members of a department deem a faculty member’s record of teaching and service warrant consideration of that person for promotion, the department chair should promptly discuss the need for his or her position with the Associate Dean for the Teaching Track and Visiting Faculty.  This discussion to take place early in the fall quarter. With colleagues in the Dean’s Office, the associate dean reviews hiring plans for the department and the likelihood of the position continuing. If the associate dean authorizes continuation of the position, and there is agreement on the plausibility of promotion consideration at that time, the process gets underway in the fall quarter. Any exception for time in rank or variance on the expected terminal degree should be submitted in writing by the chair and included in the promotion consideration.

Timetable for Promotion

See the document Teaching-Track Faculty Promotion Timeline.

Dossier Materials for Promotion

See the document Teaching-Track Faculty Promotion Required Materials

Department Recommendation

The chair requests that the candidate supply a dossier to the department. Please see the list of required material above. 

A department committee comprising all entire tenure-line faculty and those teaching-track faculty members of at a rank higher than the candidate’s reviews the dossier, discusses the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and eligible voting faculty vote by secret ballot. In the case of candidates for promotion to the rank of Professor of Instruction, the discussion of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses must take into account the testimony of external reviewers, if any external reviews are solicited. Committee members who have close personal relationships with the candidate or otherwise feel they cannot maintain proper professional distance should recuse themselves from the discussion and vote on that candidate. If fewer than three faculty members are thus eligible to serve on this committee, the Dean appoints additional members to form a surrogate committee. College Fellows and junior tenure-line faculty prior to their 3rd year review may not hold sufficient experience in the department and should not vote on promotion candidates to the ranks of Assistant and Associate Professor of Instruction. Only Professors of Instruction and tenured faculty are eligible to vote on promotion to Professor of Instruction.

The department chair sends the Dean a letter that summarizes the discussion, describes the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, refers in detail to teaching and other activities (including, for any candidate for promotion to rank of professor of instruction, the views of external referees), names the department members eligible to participate and actually participating, and vote totals (for, against, abstaining, absent). In a positive recommendation, the department should be able to demonstrate that the candidate has achieved high distinction in teaching, and to affirm on the basis of observation and experience that this person is as good a teacher in his or her field as the department could reasonably expect to hire, now or in the foreseeable future. In the case of the candidate for promotion to the rank of professor of instruction, the department should be able to demonstrate that the candidate has significant national standing in his or her field. The letter, signed by the chair and three or four members of the department committee, and the accompanying materials are sent to the Dean.

Promotion and Reappointment Committee

The Teaching-Track Promotion and Reappointment Committee is made up of four teaching-track faculty and three tenured faculty.  It is charged with evaluating promotions and reappointments of the non-tenure-eligible faculty and advising the Dean on these matters. The committee is elected and rotating, with members serving staggered terms.

Members of the Promotion and Reappointment Committee recuse themselves on all promotion and reappointment discussions for members from their home department. The term of service is three years. As a general rule, to keep a department or program from dominating the committee, an entire department/program is disqualified for three years after a member of that department/program has served a full term.

Teaching-Track Faculty membership

The Promotion and Reappointment Committee has four members elected by members of the teaching-track faculty (a record of whom is maintained by the Associate Dean for Teaching Track and Visiting Faculty). They should be faculty members in good standing drawn from Div. I, Div. II, Div. III-the language faculty, and those in Div. III-complement (faculty who are not part of language instruction).

Teaching-track faculty at the ranks of Associate Professor of Instruction, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, and Professor of Instruction are eligible to serve.

Tenure-Line Faculty Membership

In addition, the Promotion and Reappointment Committee has three members elected by members of the tenure-line faculty. They will be faculty members drawn from Div. I, Div. II, and Div. III.  Eligible for the three tenured positions on the committee are faculty members at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor.

Members are elected by the tenure-line faculty following their usual procedures.  In reviews of faculty members for promotion to the rank of Professor of Instruction, only committee members at the rank of tenured Professor, tenured Associate Professor, and Professor of Instruction may vote.

The seven-member Promotion and Reappointment Committee reviews promotion dossiers for non-tenure-eligible faculty members. They vote confidentially on each case and make a recommendation to the Dean. Similarly, the Promotion and Reappointment Committee reviews recommendations for teaching-track reappointments. A report of the committee vote will only be described as ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ A 2/3 majority is required for a positive vote.

A case for promotion must be strong and fulfill the requirements for promotion to the next rank in order to warrant a positive vote. Time in rank is not sufficient. Likewise, a case for reappointment must be made actively on the strengths of the faculty member’s positive contributions to the teaching mission. The absence of a negative case is insufficient for a positive recommendation for renewal.

Consideration by the Dean

The authority to make decisions about promotion rests with the Dean. If the Dean has reservations about a recommended promotion, the chair of the department is notified and the chair notifies the candidate. The Dean may ask the teaching-track Promotion and Reappointment Committee to elaborate on the case and the reasoning behind a recommendation, or may request additional information about any aspect of the candidate’s record from his or her department. When the Dean decides against a recommended advancement, the promotion process ends in the College.

The dossiers of the candidates whom the Dean recommends for promotion are forwarded to the Provost, who has the authority to decide negatively about a promotion. The Dean writes to each candidate about the decision in his or her case, and sends a copy of that letter to the candidate’s chair.

Negative Decisions

A promotion candidate whose department has voted against promotion or reappointment will be notified by the chair.

When a department votes negatively regarding a promotion for teaching-track faculty, under most circumstances the promotion review stops at that point. The chair will notify the Dean office that the promotion case will not proceed to the College for further evaluation. The chair will provide for the Dean a brief letter describing the reasons and any department vote. A candidate for promotion who has received a negative vote at the department level may ask to see the department letter and may choose to appeal to the Dean on the grounds outlined in the University Faculty Handbook.

A promotion candidate’s dossier may receive a positive department vote and then a negative vote by the Promotion and Reappointment Committee. Those cases will nonetheless be sent to the Dean for consideration. If the Dean decides against recommending promotion he will notify the candidate and the chair.

Back to top