EuroTech Universities welcome European position on tenure track

At the launch of the League of European Research Universities’ (LERU) advice paper on "Tenure and Tenure track Models in Europe" on 12 September, the EuroTech Universities were invited to comment in view of their experience on this issue. Representing the EuroTech Universities, Dr Olivier Küttel, Head of European Public Affairs at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), welcomed the paper, highlighting a key approach for Europe to compete globally for the best research talent.

At the LERU event, Dr Küttel called for a sharper definition of tenure track in Europe. Based on EuroTech Universities’ experience, a full package should be offered to tenure track professors, including scientific freedom, lab space, a good mentoring system, the possibility to manage a team, support staff, and job security. According to EuroTech Universities’ approach, a true tenure track system should always guarantee a permanent associate professor position to those tenure track professors that have been positively evaluated, with the option of progressing to the position of full professor. The tenure track system should be competitive, while offering clear rules and transparent evaluation criteria. Through reconciling career aspirations with family commitments, the tenure track system should also play an important role in significantly increasing the proportion of women in high academic positions.

EPFL and Technische Universität München (TUM), both members of the EuroTech Universities Alliance, had already presented their tenure track systems at a High Level Event in Brussels in June 2013. Since implementing tenure track in 2000, EPFL has appointed 130 tenure track professors, of which 68 have since been appointed as full professors. Their research excellence is underlined by the fact that around half of the EPFL tenure track professors hired so far have received an ERC Starting Grant. TUM was the first German university to introduce the tenure track system in 2012. Having now appointed 31 assistant professors of 13 different nationalities with an average age of 35, the TUM tenure track model has proven extremely attractive to top young scientists. TUM aims to create 100 new tenure track professorships by 2020, making up roughly a fifth of all professorial positions by that date.

Having already 14 years of experience with the tenure track model, EPFL has already experienced a 70 per cent success rate, demonstrating the importance of competition. Most of the remaining 30 per cent had left their positions before the end of their tenure track for other job opportunities, while only 7 per cent were not successful at the evaluation process. Those who did not succeed were provided the opportunity to continue with their research career through a phasing-out year following the termination of their tenure track appointment.

Other EuroTech Universities Alliance partners, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Technical University of Denmark (DTU), are also actively exploring innovative approaches for recruiting top research talent, tailored to their needs as leading universities of science and technology.