2/2016

Tenure track scoops young talent

Since 2012, professors have been recruited at Tampere University of Technology using a four-stage tenure track career path. On their way from Assistant Professor to Full Professor, these young prospects evolve into full-fledged professors.

Miikka Dal Maso

 

Professor and particle researcher Miikka Dal Maso was one of the first people to reach the position of Full Professor on TUT’s tenure track.

 

With the previously applied system, appointed professors needed to have a proven record of extensive academic merit. Today, an increasing number of professors recruited at TUT are at the initial stages of their careers. They are young gifted researchers somewhat under or over thirty years of age. This emerging talent may spend a maximum of 12 years on the tenure track gathering the experience and competence required in a tenured position of a Full Professor.

“Our first researchers on the tenure track were appointed in 2012. So far, a total of 64 have been recruited and the number is on the rise. Last year, 25 people were recruited on the path, and as many as 19 have so far been appointed this year,” HR Manager Anne Korhonen at TUT says.

The system entails notable mutual benefits. The University gains skilled new people who evolve into competent professors and who are familiar with the University’s practices. Young scientists, in turn, get to fulfil themselves through their research while also gaining qualifications as a teacher and steering their careers towards full professorship. The recruitment is based on open international competition. TUT is seeking new proficient people with completed doctorate and the potential to proceed towards more demanding positions on the track. The fields of the tenure track positions are defined in broad terms to ensure that a sufficient number of eligible candidates are available. The fact that nearly a quarter of the appointees are non-Finnish is a fine indication of TUT’s overall appeal.

Tampere University of Technology and Aalto University are the first universities in Finland to adopt the tenure track procedure to this extent. TUT President Mika Hannula is content with the recruitment practice.

“We have been very pleased with this procedure. We have also supported tenure track appointees at the initial stages of their careers through starter packages funded from returns on the foundation capital. Explicit goals along a person’s career path benefit both the individual and the University,” Hannula says.

Advancement along the career path

All candidates considered for a tenure track position are expected to hold an applicable doctoral degree, demonstrate the capacity for independent scholarly activity and possess the teaching skills required for the successful performance of their duties.

Assistant Professor (1st term)
Appointment for a fixed term of 2–4 years. In order to proceed to the next level, the candidate needs to pass a promotion review.

Assistant Professor (2nd term)
Appointment for a fixed term of 4 years. From this position, it is possible to proceed to the position of Associate Professor through a promotion review.

Associate Professor
Appointment for a fixed term of 4 years. Based on a tenure review, Associate Professors may be promoted to Full Professor.

Professor
The candidate may be tenured based on a tenure review. For a well-founded reason, a person may also be directly appointed for a tenured position.

 

Status reviews mark the way

A researcher proceeding on the tenure track career path moves from the lowest, two-stage ‘Assistant Professor’ level on to the position of ‘Associate Professor’ and finally that of a tenured ‘Full Professor’. Each of the first three ladders takes up to four years to complete, and once the goals specified for each level have been achieved within the term specified, the person moves on to the next level through a review. The University is committed to providing researchers on the tenure track the opportunity to advance to the next level, provided that their performance is found to meet the requirements in the relevant reviews.

It is also possible for candidates to hop on the track at a later phase of their careers: applicants who have accumulated more extensive experience may be directly appointed as Associate Professors. Top experts may still be recruited directly for tenured professor positions without completing the previous tenure track phases. Applicants are expected to hold an outstanding level of competence and to meet international standards in all reviewed areas.

Less pressure with focus on the work

One of the first people to reach the position of Full Professor on TUT’s tenure track is particle researcher Miikka Dal Maso.

“Looking back, the tenure track period was admittedly rather challenging, but it also trained me for my current position. The career path took off some of the pressure and allowed me to focus on my research full-time. It was also helpful to have explicit goals to pursue in order to proceed on the path. I did not have previous history with TUT, and it was thus important for me to be able to combine my own background with the research conducted at my unit,” Dal Maso says.

“In my capacity as an Associate Professor, I was also able to influence some of our research focuses for the future.”

Among other initiatives, Dal Maso has participated in the newly established European ACTRIS (Aerosols, Clouds and Trace gases Research Infrastructure) community which offers scientists with a unique research setting and produces information on fine particles, clouds and trace gases for the needs of climate change, air quality and health research, in particular.

Text: Sanna Schildt
Photo: Mika Kanerva

 
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