Journal of Educational Leadership in Action


Steven Kessler


Tenure is commonly understood as a privilege earned by individuals in higher education guaranteeing a lifetime appointment barring gross negligence. To individuals outside of higher education, the tenure process is less clear. Contemporary tenure is earned today largely for research and teaching with the heaviest emphasis on research. The third leg of tenure, service, is often neglected or discouraged in the rewards structure. While this information is widely known in higher education, the irony of this system is not. This paper aims to explore higher education’s historical roots as a medieval corporation in explaining the origins of tenure. Tenure originally came to higher education as a corporate entity because of the service it performed to its community, whether philological and religious, or vocational. The rights and privileges that came with tenure were endowed to higher education as corporate communities first which then gave the individual rights. This paper explores contemporary tenure in higher education, the socio-political factors that lead to the dissolution of the corporate community, including the French Revolution, the period in American higher education where research became the norm, and the implications for today.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.