Tenure track in the Netherlands

By popular demand, today’s post is about my tenure track position which I started 3 years ago. Although I intended to give an update of how my tenure track is going, there’s a bit of background that’s relevant to share, so this post is only about my experiences when I started. Also, recently I’ve had a few questions from future tenure trackers, so I’m sharing my answers in case it is useful to others.

Starting conditions

As I’ve also explained in my “student or employee during your PhD” post, all academic positions in the Netherlands work with fixed pay scales. You can find these here, below I also added a screenshot of some of the scales.

These numbers are all before tax and per month. Various secondary benefits also apply.

Assistant professor positions are in scale 11 or 12. Typically a starting assistant professor would be in scale 11, and in scale 12 after tenure. The Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) reports that 50.8% of women assistant professors are in scale 11, versus 40.8% of men.  

When I started at TUe, I was initially offered scale 11.0. However, I had already been in scale 11 as a postdoc, and my institution was a medical center, with slightly higher pay scales. Due to this I was offered 11.3, which just matched my previous salary, and which I accepted.   

There was no start-up package – I think this in general isn’t a thing in the Netherlands, although I do see this being offered more frequently now.

Contract & tenure conditions

The tenure track contract is a temporary contract for 5 years. After 4 years there is an evaluation which decides whether you get tenure or not. If yes, you get permanent contract, if not, you are still employed for a year. There is also a (less formal) midway evaluation after about 2 years, to prepare for the real thing.

The criteria for evaluation are described in various documents. I received some general criteria on what is important for the university (for example “supervising students”), and a department-specific interpretation of these criteria. In the context of creating a personal development plan for the tenure track period, I did receive some quantifiable criteria too, of what you should aim for within 4 years:

  • Significant progress in obtaining the teaching qualification certificate
  • Responsible instructor for 1-2 courses
  • Good teaching evaluations
  • Supervision of at least 2 MSc and 4 BSc students
  • Co-author of at least 5 peer-reviewed publications in high impact, relevant journals
  • Written statement from chair about contribution to getting funding
  • Significant progress in increasing external visibility
  • Collaborations with other departments, hospitals or industry
  • Successful (co-) supervision of multiple PhD researchers
  • Examples of strong leadership
  • Examples of strong communication skills
  • Examples of independence and responsibility

A bit more quantifiable, but still open to interpretation. In my own personal development plan I translated these as follows:

  • Get teaching certificate
  • Setup and teach a first year course, co-teach in a third year course, later start developing course closer to my research
  • Supervise at least 2 MSc and 4 BSc students
  • Co-author of at least 5 peer-reviewed publications in high impact, relevant journals
  • Apply for 2 medium-sized (1 PhD or postdoc) grants per year
  • Apply to small grants, for example for workshops, when possible
  • Give talks at (local) conferences, or invited talks if possible
  • Setup collaborations with other departments 
  • Co-supervise a PhD researcher (if funding)
  • Outreach about academia through blog and Twitter 

Also not entirely quantifiable, but I also left out a few specific details here (examples of papers, collaborations, numbers of blog/Twitter followers etc).

The (midway) tenure evaluation moments consist of submitting an update of this plan and a recent CV, and then giving a presentation about your achievements to a committee of 3-4 professors.  

This is all I wanted to share for the first part of this topic – next time I’ll talk about how things are going so far. If you have any questions about this post, or anything I can address next time, please comment below!

4 thoughts on “Tenure track in the Netherlands”

  1. Thanks Veronika, very good to write about this, I have not found many places where people write about this, and for people considering a tenure track or working in a tenure track, this is very relevant information.

    I can add some information about how this works in my group (http://diagnijmegen.nl/). I’ll keep it brief here, but can provide more information. I think we should be transparent about such things.

    What strikes me is the vagueness of the criteria you list. For me, a tenure track means that you know you’ll get a permanent position if you meet the requirements, not that you will get it if some committee positively evaluates you at the end of the tenure track period based on management speak nonsense like “strong leadership”. I would feel uneasy about that if I were on a tenure track. It provides room for the university to put multiple researchers in a tenure track and let them compete and in the end select the best subset, size of the subset limited by available budget, and reject the others because, unfortunately, their leadership was “good” but not “strong”.

    Our tenure track requirements are quantifiable. We have the freedom to set them individually (I need permission from my department head if I want to put somebody in a tenure track, we do have some guidelines for this but in the end it is a financial commitment the institution makes, and our department head is responsible for the money). Typically the demands are that you need in the last five years have been co-promotor once, a certain number of publications where authorship positions and which journals are precisely defined, and you need to have obtained funding with amounts specified. For every funding proposal submitted we keep track, beforehand, how much of that funding can be allocated to each of the researchers involved. Our tenure tracks are typically 3 years, but I see the 5 year period becoming more popular in other departments in our institute. I do not think our criteria completely make sense, especially our definition of what is a high impact publication, but they are based on the criteria for internal funding schemes we have in our institute.

    • Thanks for sharing Bram! It would be great to have more examples in one place – if more people you know would share the same, I’d be happy to post it here.

      I agree with you but at the time I was happy to eventually get a list with at least a few quantifiable things (papers, students). Also, I was happy with the fact that there was no specific funding, but only a statement about your efforts, since there’s a 10-15% success rate.

      What I forgot to mention is that some tenure tracks are 2 years, if you had a previous temporary contract at the university (due to the Dutch laws). I guess the criteria are adjusted in this case, but the bottom line is that there is some flexibility.


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