External Evaluation for Tenure and Promotion

You are here


Review by external evaluators is a critical part of tenure and promotion decisions at Lehigh. External evaluators are often uniquely positioned to provide an expert assessment of the faculty member’s dossier, especially regarding their research and scholarship. 

The department and the candidate being evaluated each nominate a list of external reviewers. The final lists of external reviewers are approved by the Dean and Provost, in consultation with the Department Chair. The final list must contain at least five external reviewers, one to two of whom must be from the list of reviewers nominated by the candidate. (Some colleges require more than five external reviewers.) The candidate knows who is on the two lists of nominees, but is not permitted to know which nominees were asked and/or agreed to serve as reviewers.

This webpage provides information about selecting external evaluators and requesting letters from them. See the relevant sections of R&P for further details. Please consult college guidelines for additional requirements. 

Selecting External Evaluators

The Department Chair should consult with the candidate on the preparation of both the department’s list and the candidate’s list. The Chair should also consult with the department faculty of the appropriate rank (tenured faculty members for a candidate being reviewed for tenure, Full Professors for a candidate being reviewed for promotion to Full) in developing the lists. It is recommended that the two lists contain at least 8–10 prospective external evaluators, combined, in the event some scholars decline to serve. Generally, it’s a good idea to include 2-5 names on the candidate’s list and at least 5-8 names on the department’s list.

At least one, but no more than two, evaluators in the final group of letters should be from the candidate’s proposed list. The candidate should have an opportunity to review the department list so they can register any objections to specific individuals whom they feel cannot render a qualified and fair evaluation. Disagreements will be resolved by the Provost.

The following criteria should be used when selecting external evaluators. For each proposed evaluator, the Department Chair should provide brief context (a sentence or two) on the Template List of External Evaluators as to why an individual is a suitable choice, especially if the criteria below are not fully met. 

Institution Type

Evaluators generally must come from institutions comparable to or better than Lehigh University. Any exception to this rule should have a reasonable explanation as to why the proposed evaluator is on the list.


No more than one evaluator at the tenured Associate Professor level is permitted among the final group of evaluators for tenure cases. If the list of proposed evaluators from the department or candidate includes more than one Associate Professor, then the department should reach out to no more than one at a time. No faculty under the rank of tenured Associate Professor should be considered as external reviewers for tenure cases.

No faculty under the rank of Professor should be considered as external reviewers for promotion to Full cases.

Independence of Reviewers

External reviewers should be able to provide an independent assessment of the candidate’s work, and, as such, should remain at “arm’s length.” An individual should be excluded from serving as an external reviewer if they are related by blood or marriage, if they have ever been a former advisor or supervisor, or if they are a recent close collaborator. Recent close collaboration is defined as co-authorship, co-editorship, co-PI on a grant, or similar close relationship within the last three years. In some fields, papers can include many (even hundreds) of co-authors. In these cases, co-authorship should not necessarily disqualify a reviewer, as such a relationship is unlikely by itself to create a conflict of interest or to interfere with an independent assessment. If a candidate or their department is unsure whether the candidate's relationship to an individual should disqualify that individual as an external letter writer, the department should consult with the Associate Dean of Faculty and/or Deputy Provost for Faculty Affairs.

The candidate should be consulted about any relationships with potential reviewers before the Chair completes the Department’s and Candidate’s List of External Evaluators. Any prior relationship should be noted in the “relationship” column, whether or not that relationship disqualifies the individual from serving as an external reviewer. 

Non-U.S. Scholar

Promotion to Full Professor should indicate that the faculty member has an international reputation as a scholar. Therefore, at the promotion to Full Professor level, at least one letter should come from a non-U.S.-based scholar or a scholar who has significant experience at a non-U.S.-based institution. There are some academic fields for which this may not be applicable, such as fields in which work by researchers outside the U.S. is minimal. In such cases, a brief explanation should be included with the proposed list of reviewers.

Previously Reviewed for Tenure

Some external evaluators who previously wrote letters for the candidate for tenure may also be requested to evaluate the candidate for promotion to Full. However, more than half of the number of required external evaluators for promotion to Full must be new. (For example, if 5 or 6 are chosen for the final list, no more than 2 evaluators can be from the tenure list; if 8 are chosen, no more than 3 can be from the tenure list; and so on.) The Template List of External Evaluators contains a column to indicate whether a proposed evaluator previously reviewed the candidate for tenure. 

Same Institution

The finalized list should not include multiple evaluators from the same institution. (Exceptions may be granted if the evaluators are beyond the five required evaluators, or if evaluators are in different schools, colleges, or departments at the same institution.)

Submitting Lists to the Provost’s Office

The Department Chair, in consultation with the candidate, develops the two lists (department’s and candidate’s) of potential external evaluators, using the Template List of External Evaluators provided on the Provost’s website. The candidate should inform the department chair of any prior relationship with each person on the lists. Any prior relationship should be noted, even if the relationship does not disqualify the scholar from serving as an external evaluator.

The Department Chair submits the two lists to the Dean. Once the Dean has approved the lists, the Dean’s office forwards them to the Provost’s office. The Provost reviews the lists of potential external evaluators and notifies the Dean that the lists are approved, or provides feedback. The Department Chair should not contact potential external evaluators until they have received notification of approval from the Provost’s office.

Contacting Potential External Evaluators

The Department Chair, in consultation with the department members at the appropriate rank, determines which potential evaluators from the two lists to request letters from. The Department Chair then invites those evaluators to write letters, using the Template Letter to Solicit External Review, and sends instructions to those evaluators who agree to write letters, using the Template Letter with Instructions for External Review.

Communications with external evaluators by other means with the intention of predetermining or influencing the content of reviews are entirely inappropriate. It is also inappropriate for anyone involved in the tenure review process to solicit evaluations of the candidate from any other individuals or groups external to Lehigh.

“Internal–External” Evaluators

Tenure and promotion candidates may choose to have one Lehigh faculty member from outside their department write an independent assessment of their work, especially where that work is interdisciplinary (regardless of whether the faculty member has a joint appointment/MOU). This is known as an “internal–external reviewer.”

The candidate will provide a list of up to three names to the Department Chair, who will solicit the letter. If the candidate provides more than one name, the Chair should request only one letter at a time, until one potential reviewer agrees. 

Internal–external review letters are to be treated with the same confidentiality as external review letters. Internal–external reviewers see the same dossier that external reviewers see; they do not see the external review letters. Internal–external reviewers may comment on the candidate’s research and scholarship, teaching, and/or service.

Extensions to Probationary Period

Untenured Lehigh faculty are eligible for extensions to their probationary period for various reasons including parenthood, disability, public or military service, and are also eligible for an elective extension for any reason (see R&P §

A candidate who has received one or more extensions to their probationary period are to be evaluated (by both external and internal evaluators) using the same criteria as candidates who have not received extensions—taking an extension does not increase the expectations for tenure. 

R&P instructs Department Chairs to inform internal and external evaluators “that the candidate must be evaluated with the same tenure criteria as candidates who have received no extensions and with the same expectations for accomplishments as would be applied to candidates who received no extensions.”

Faculty with Joint Appointments

For faculty with both Type 1 and 2 joint appointments, the special committee and participating faculty of the home department work together to prepare the lists of external evaluators. (See R&P §

Multiple Promotion Reviews

If a faculty member is denied promotion to Full, or withdraws from consideration, all subsequent promotion reviews must begin anew. New letters must be submitted from external evaluators. Both the candidate and the department may nominate external evaluators who participated in earlier promotion reviews; however, at least three new external reviewers must be included in the list of final external evaluators asked to write letters. (See R&P §

Relevant Sections of R&P
  • 2.2.6 Tenure Review Process

  • Extensions to the Probationary Period

  • External Evaluation

  • Tenure and Promotion [for faculty with joint appointments]

Promotion to Full
  • 2.2.9 Promotion Review Process

  • External Evaluation

  • Subsequent Promotion Reviews

  • Tenure and Promotion [for faculty with joint appointments]

Additional Documents

These guidelines were vetted by the Deans in March 2024. It is the Provost’s expectation that Department Chairs and Deans reviewing lists of external evaluators follow these guidelines, as well as R&P, and any additional college guidelines.