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Classifying Alumni with Faculty Appointments

Faculty Classification System

The “job function” tier of the VU BRET Taxonomy does not define job functions for faculty on the basis of tenure or full- or part-time tenure status. Instead, the VU BRET Taxonomy defines faculty job functions based on the type of work an individual does. Faculty may be researchers, teachers, administrators, or some combination thereof.  Rather than attempting to capture this complexity in the “job function” tier, as the RBR taxonomy does through the use of five unique faculty “job functions,” we developed an alternate strategy.

In the VU BRET Taxonomy, alumni with faculty appointments are classified in the “job function” tier according to what they do: “principal investigator or group leader” or “research faculty or staff” or “teaching faculty or staff” or “administration.” The record is then assigned a faculty flag, “has a faculty appointment=yes” and classified further. We record three elements of the job title (prefix, rank, and title) and assign a presumed tenure status to each record.

Capturing the prefix, rank, and faculty title from the job title is straightforward and offers numerous benefits. First, it allows us to follow progression of alumni faculty careers over time. Second, certain faculty titles or prefixes are presumed indicative of tenure status, as noted in the table below.

FieldAnswer OptionsRules
If prefix = “adjunct” or “visiting” then presumed tenure status is assigned as “tenure not applicable.”

If prefix = “research” or “clinical” then presumed tenure status will mostly likely be “nontenure track.”

If there is no prefix in the individual’s job title, this field should be left blank.

Use “Other” for all other prefixes.
If there is no rank in the individual’s job title, this field should be left blank.
If faculty title = “instructor” or “lecturer” then presumed tenure status is assigned as “nontenure track.”
Foreign Institution
Nontenure Track
Tenured or Tenure Track
Tenure Not Applicable
Tenure Status Unclear

For each faculty record, a “presumed tenure status” is assigned based on publicly available information. The word “presumed” underscores the fact we cannot be certain of tenure status without contacting individuals or institutions. Evidence of a tenure-track or tenured status includes:

  • Announcements of promotion or tenure appointments on university websites or social media
  • Website describing the faculty member’s research program and team
  • The presence of PhD students or postdoctoral fellows currently advised by the faculty member
  • Named professorships or leadership positions within the department
  • Departmental listings of faculty, often with links to faculty CVs or research programs
  • Presence of large research grants or educational grants from major funders like the NIH or NSF
  • Multiple last-author publications (biomedical sciences)

If our confidence in assigning tenure status is low, even after reviewing this information, the record is assigned “tenure status unknown.”


Job titles vary substantially from institution to institution. In some institutions, titles like “Instructor” or “Lecturer” are not faculty appointments. In the interest of expediency, we set rules to classify these titles as “has a faculty appointment=yes.” However, if 100% accuracy is required for a project, coders are encouraged to consult the faculty manual posted on an institution’s website to determine whether a particular title is indeed a faculty appointment.

Assigning tenure status is particularly difficult for faculty employed at foreign universities. In lieu of attempting to discern tenure status, we designate the “presumed tenure status” of faculty employed at non-US universities as “Foreign Institution.”