Communication #5: Term Professorial Appointments (“Q” and “W” Appointments) (AY2023-24)

Last revised October 2012


Two types of term professorial appointments are described in this policy. The first, the initial term (“Q”) appointment, is the most common and involves appointment as an associate or full professor but within an initial probationary period before review for indefinite tenure. The second, a special written agreement that waives the faculty member’s right to tenure or consideration for tenure (a “W” agreement), is granted only very rarely. 

“Q” appointments are appropriate to consider when a unit recruiting a person from outside the University finds that the candidate does not yet possess the record of particular achievement expected of a tenured member on this campus, even though the person is of relatively senior standing in the field. This situation is often encountered when the nominee has developed his or her career in a nonacademic setting where there has been limited opportunity to publish and/or no opportunity to teach. With the prior approval of the Provost, a “Q” appointment permits the unit to offer an initial appointment at the rank of associate or full professor without indefinite tenure. The person may then be evaluated for tenure through the normal process according to the schedule below during the “Q” appointment period. 

Even more rarely, circumstances arise in which it is appropriate to enter into a special written agreement with an individual for a “W” appointment at the rank of assistant, associate or full professor with an appointment for a definite term. A “W” appointment releases the University from any commitment to grant tenure. Such appointments are given only under exceptional circumstances.

Calendar of Events

Consideration of a “Q” appointment may arise at any point in the recruitment cycle. The request should be processed through the normal channels for appointments to the faculty. Units may expect response from the Office of the Provost about one work week after receipt in that office. 

Consideration of a “W” appointment requires advance consultation and approval from the Office of the Provost.

“Q” Appointments

If the first appointment with the University at the rank of associate or full professor is to be for a definite term, the department may recommend a “Q” appointment. Any request for a “Q” appointment must be transmitted from the unit through the appropriate channels. 

The authority for the “Q” appointment status is found in the University of Illinois Statutes. Article X, Section 1a(1) provides that “an appointment as professor or associate professor shall be for an indefinite term, except that first appointments or temporary appointments may be for shorter periods.” 

The term of “Q” appointments may be for up to four years. Units should consult with the dean or the next level of review to determine the appropriate length of the “Q” appointment period.  The extent of prior research and teaching should factor into this decision. No matter what the length of the appointment is, the final year of the appointment is reserved for use as a terminal year if tenure is not granted.  Accordingly, candidates must be reviewed for tenure during the penultimate year (next to the last year of the appointment).   

Note: An individual appointed to a 4-year “Q” appointment receives a full review for tenure no later than the end of the individual’s third year on campus; those appointed to a three-year term are reviewed no later than the end of the second year, and so on. It is not possible to be appointed for a one-year “Q” appointment. A two-year “Q” appointment is the bare minimum however, units should be cautious about using a two-year term as the candidate would be reviewed in the first year of the appointment. Please consider the term carefully when preparing the request for a “Q” appointment.

Length of AppointmentReview Completed in Year


Because consideration for tenure will occur within a few years, the case for a “Q” appointment should be made with a documentary record stronger than that typical of a new assistant professor, but it need not be so full as that expected for a tenured appointment. Even so, most of the same important elements should be present, including:

  • a complete, updated curriculum vitae; 
  • an analysis of the quality, significance, and impact of the nominee’s research contributions; 
  • a prognosis for the nominee’s performance as a teacher; 
  • a critical evaluation of the nominee’s standing by appropriate external authorities; 
  • a strong rationale for why a “Q” appointment is more appropriate than an advanced assistant professor appointment (e.g., tenure code 4).

If a unit recommends a “Q” appointment on the basis of an open search, some of the letters normally would be obtained upon the candidate’s direct request to the evaluator. However, in addition, executive officers should obtain some external letters by their own solicitation. Under favored practice, a majority of the external letters should be obtained by the unit without the candidate’s intervention. In other words, the unit must not rely entirely on the candidate to manage the external review.

Attachment 1 lists the documentation required for review of a proposed “Q” appointment.

Expiration of “Q” Appointment

No later than the penultimate year of the “Q” appointment (see table on page 2), units must take one of the following actions:

  1. The staff member may be recommended for indefinite tenure at the current rank or be recommended for indefinite tenure and promotion. If the decision is to recommend indefinite tenure, the department must forward promotion papers through the regular promotion and tenure process and channels to the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs by December 15 of the penultimate year (See Communication No. 9). The recommendation is considered on the normal annual cycle. 
  2. If a review indicates that the scholarly and teaching record does not warrant indefinite tenure, then the unit should notify the staff member that he/she will not be reappointed (See Communication No. 10). This notice should occur no later than May 15 of the penultimate year of the appointment period. The notice will provide the faculty member with a one-year terminal appointment.  

“W” Term Appointments

The execution of a Special Agreement to Accept Academic Appointment and Reappointment for a Definite Term waives a staff member’s right to all tenure provisions for academic staff contained in Article X of the University of Illinois Statutes. The ranks to which this agreement apply are those outlined in the Statutes as being eligible for tenure. 

The authority for the “W” appointment status is found in the University of Illinois Statutes, Article X, Section 1a, which provides that “Except under unusual circumstances evidenced by a special written agreement approved by the president of the University and the appointee, the tenure status for the academic ranks of professor, associate professor, and assistant professor shall be as provided in this section.” At Urbana-Champaign, the President’s designee is the Chancellor, who in turn has delegated this authority to the Provost. 

A copy of the Special Agreement form, which shows the necessary approvals, is contained in Attachment 2. The special agreement should only be executed under exceptional circumstances and should not be used as a means of appointing a staff member on a temporary basis (year-to-year contracts). 

The Statutes provide a notification period for assistant professors which, with careful planning on the part of departments, should cause no problems for those staff members employed on State funds. For those employed on non-State funds, there may be more of a problem in that grants may be terminated at any time and, therefore, a “W” form executed for a staff member paid from non-State funds may occasionally be justifiable. (It is seldom, if ever, appropriate for a “W” form to be provided for a staff member paid wholly or partially from State funds.) 

A special agreement will not be approved unless sufficient justification is provided concerning the reason the staff member is being asked to waive his/her rights to tenure. The execution of a “W” agreement for a staff member being paid on State funds for the reason of budgetary uncertainty is not acceptable. 

Advance consultation and approval from the Office of the Provost is required before a “W” appointment can be offered. Once that approval is received, the Special Agreement form, along with a statement of justification, should be submitted with the staff member’s other appointment forms.


Further questions concerning “Q” or “W” appointments should be directed to the Office of the Provost (333-6677).