Writing effective promotion applications

How to ensure your promotion application has the best possible chance of success

Publication details

Harzing, A.W. (2022) Writing effective promotion applications: Crafting your career in academia, Published by Tarma Software Research Ltd, London, United Kingdom

  • Black & white paperback, 115pp. ISBN 978-1-7396097-3-3.
  • Kindle edition, 125pp. ISBN 978-17396097-1-9.


While academics are not known for their emotional outbursts, it’s only fair to say that I absolutely LOVE this book – and have found it exceptionally helpful myself. Harzing guides aspirant applicants carefully and supportively through the promotion application process in a breezy and accessible style. She offers practical advice and encouragement, drawn from her own personal experience on both sides of the promotion ‘desk’, and the wisdom and authenticity of her voice leaps from the page. The subtitle of the book is particularly important and insightful. Applicants are instructed how to best craft narratives about themselves - rooted in their achievements - revealing the unique individual that the promotion panel is asked to consider. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Tim Freeman

This book is a game changer in making a complex and emotive process accessible and understandable. Anne-Wil Harzing has transformed a challenging and frustratingly unknown abyss of how to write a strong and competitive promotion application into a structured and meaningful set of tasks that get you to the finishing line. I can validate this as someone who has followed each page painstakingly and can testify upon completion that the journey from start to finish was meaningful and smooth. Thank you Anne-Wil for caring so much to put together a testament of long-term global experience meant to mentor and support others, this is a major gift! Anastasia Christou

I have used this book while preparing my application to associate professor in a UK university. I have in particular appreciated how it succeeds in making one understand the point of view of the panel on the application or how the application will be "read" by the panel and therefore writing it in a way that addressed that. For instance, one often forgets how the panel will not likely comprise individuals in one's own discipline. It is also effective in making one reflect on how to underline strengths in one's career trajectory. In my case, having moved between disciplines I have tended to consider this as a weakness in promotion applications, but the book suggested how I could defend that choice or even making it a selling point. Nico Pizzolato

I have read Anne-Wil Harzing's book to help me write my own promotion application. I have found the book very useful, written in a clear and accessible manner. Harzing provides both emotional and practical tips for internal promotion applicants (the focus of the book). Much like an agony aunt, she advises against taking rejections personally and reminds the readers they need to 'accept you can't control everything' (p.13). Harzing gives plenty of practical tips, too. Top of the list is the need to provide evidence to substantiate the narrative case for promotion on three main dimensions: research and engagement (chapter 3), teaching and learning (chapter 4), and leadership and service (chapter 5). Harzing suggests using reviews to evidence original research contributions (p.24). This counts as independent evidence. Testimonials from colleagues and students can strengthen a case for promotion (p.45). A most useful tip was the advice to craft a career narrative retrospectively (p.56), with an opening statement summarising the main message of the application. Finally, the advice to 'link your narrative to your university's mission' (p.60) is a top tip. I definitely recommend the book as a very pertinent and relevant guide for academics at various stages of their careers. Anonymous Amazon review.

This book reminds us about what we (probably) know, but we rarely show in our applications -- the multidimensional set of skills/achievements that academics have and must show when preparing an application. The author guides you throughout the book with practical suggestions to identify your "strengths" and put in perspective your achievements for the promotion panel. One of the many useful tips is to provide some background about your discipline to the panel as some of the members might not be familiar with the "norm" you are facing. This becomes even more important when you belong to a School/Faculty with a variety of disciplines with different norms and practices. In addition, the author also reminds us about gathering your own evidence with time, in particular, keeping a record of testimonials that can be used as part of your application to provide evidence about the opinion of others about your work. I enjoyed reading this book, highly recommended!!! Ericka Rascon-Ramirez

Academic promotion is perhaps one of these grey areas in academia that is rarely discussed publicly. However, Anne-Wil breaks this silence and raises voices through her own stories, which motivate other junior and senior academics for their own academic promotions. The book really made me change my thinking about academic promotions. I am very impressed by her full preparation, including teaching evidence, funding projects, research programmes, publications, and testimonials in particular. She also highlights the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration for impactful research. After reading her book, you are probably left with the reflection that academics used to be masters in their own fields, but that academic promotion can strategically bring them to multidisciplinary collaboration and new knowledge creation as the nature of education. Rui Su

Book description

Want to progress in academia? Read this book for practical, step-by-step guidance on writing effective promotion applications, leaving you better prepared to climb the academic career ladder. 

You will learn how to evidence that your research, teaching, and leadership has made a real difference and demonstrates how to embed this evidence in an overall career narrative. 

I provide insights into how your promotion panel evaluates your application, explain why external promotion is easier to achieve than internal promotion, but also outline the advantages of internal promotion.


Promotion through the various academic ranks can be a slow, frustrating, and opaque process and there are few things in academic life which elicit such strong emotions. At the same time, for many academics achieving promotion to full or associate professor is one of the most important milestones of their academic careers. This is not surprising. Academic salaries are low when compared to other professions that require the same length of training and working hours. Moreover, rejection is a constant feature of academic lives. Hence, promotion is one of the few big positive reinforcements we get in our academic careers.

Even so, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of guidance for academics going up for promotion. As a result, many promotion applications are not as effective as they could be. In this short book, I have documented the lessons I have learned about the process, both from a personal and from an institutional perspective, and have provided detailed recommendations for successful promotion applications. I hope this will help you to better understand this highly contested topic and provide you with the tools to be successful in your own promotion application. I would love to hear from you if you feel this book has helped you.

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