Staff Handbook: 2.5 Policy and Procedures for Sabbaticals


1. Preamble

The School encourages appropriate members of its staff to take advantage of the study leave provisions in the University's regulations. The School believes that sabbaticals, as study leaves are normally called within the School, are valuable for enabling individual academics to move forward their research and teaching, and thus further the aims of the School as a whole.

Accordingly, the School sees itself, rather than the sabbatical-taker, as being ultimately responsible for arranging cover for the bulk of the sabbatical-taker's teaching and administrative duties, while expecting sabbatical-takers to contribute to the process of arranging cover.

2. Purpose of a Sabbatical

The University Regulations define three types of leave: Leave of Absence, Study Leave and Special Leave (see University Regulations, 3.12-3.15). This document is concerned with Study Leave (called sabbatical in what follows).

Sabbaticals are undertaken by staff members in order to extend their knowledge and their research and/or teaching skills, so as to improve their contribution to the University's teaching and research programme, and to its general development. The value of a sabbatical is measured by its usefulness to the University's programme of research and teaching, the individual's professional development and the contribution the sabbatical may make to the wider community.

Sabbaticals are not an automatic entitlement but may be granted by the University primarily in order that members of staff may undertake study and research of a kind or to an extent that cannot be pursued during the course of normal employment. A sabbatical is often viewed as an opportunity to develop and maintain staff members' contacts with the international academic community.

To ensure that the University's needs are met with respect to a sabbatical programme, the staff member taking a sabbatical is held to be accountable to the School, through the Research Committee. For this reason, a sabbatical is not granted solely on the basis of accumulated entitlement, but must be justified in a written application, which must set out an acceptable plan for the sabbatical. Research Committee will also take into account reports by the candidate on any previous sabbatical.

3. Eligibility

Normally only members of academic staff who are employed on University funds (as opposed, for example, to staff funded by external contracts) and who are on non-temporary contracts may apply for a sabbatical.

Such a member of staff becomes eligible for a 'one semester sabbatical' after the completion of a minimum of three years of service in a teaching post in the University. The precise meaning of a 'one semester sabbatical' is explained below. After being granted a sabbatical, the member of staff becomes eligible again after completion of a further three-year period of normal academic service. Professors and non-professorial Heads of School or Department must additionally obtain the approval of the Vice-Chancellor before submitting an application.

4. Timing and Period of a Sabbatical

There are two designated periods for a sabbatical: Semester 1 and Semester 2. A sabbatical in a particular semester means:

1. As far as possible a half teaching load for the academic year, with no teaching in the term corresponding to the designated semester.

2. No undergraduate project or MSc miniproject supervision during the whole academic year.

3. As far as possible administration adjusted to a half load for the academic year, with no administration during the term corresponding to the designated semester.

The period of a sabbatical does not include Term 3. Sabbatical-takers will need to be present during this term for all matters related to their teaching (such as revision lectures, examination invigilation and marking, and examination boards, if members). They are also responsible for matters relating to next year's teaching, such as presentations of project topics or presentations of modules during induction meetings.

The School will provide a fixed maximum number of sabbatical 'slots' each academic year, normally set to 1/10th of the number of potentially eligible staff per semester. If there are more applicants approved for a sabbatical in a given year than the number of slots, priority will be given to those who have waited longest. The final decision as to which semester can be taken in which year will be taken by Staffing Committee after negotiation with the Head of Academic Programmes and the Head of School.

The scheme is designed to ensure that sabbaticals will be available at least 1 semester in 10, i.e. 1 semester every 5 years. If some members of staff do not apply, then sabbaticals will potentially be available as often as 1 semester in 7, i.e. 1 semester every 3.5 years.

Applications for longer periods of sabbaticals may be allowed if justified, and should be accompanied by supporting documentation. The objectives of any longer periods of sabbaticals must be focused on significant increase in research quality and productivity, including both inputs and outputs. Sabbaticals of one year will be considered after six years service of teaching, administration and research to the University.

In relation to how part- or full-time research buy-outs affect sabbatical 'entitlement', the following guidelines will be followed:

1. Buy-outs funded through external grants (e.g., fEC grants) do not slow down the clock.

2. Full-time research fellowships (of at least one term duration) suspend the clock.

3. Unpaid leave of at least one term duration suspends the clock.

Our rationale for this is that the administration of research grants is a substantial load on PIs, and they should not be disadvantaged by delaying their sabbatical 'entitlement'. Fellowships are specifically awarded to free a member of staff from all teaching and administration duties, and so such periods should not be seen as equivalent to normal teaching and administration duties.

5. Applying for a Sabbatical

The Head of School delegates the management of sabbaticals to the Research Committee. There will be regularly scheduled meetings of the Research Committee to deal with applications for and reports on sabbaticals.

Applications for a sabbatical must be made using the University Study Leave Application Form and must be submitted to the Chair of the Research Committee, normally by 1 November of the academic year preceding the academic year in which the sabbatical is requested. The time schedule is to provide sufficient time for organising alternative arrangements for teaching and administration.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consult the Chair of the Research Committee, the Head of Academic Programmes and the Head of School before applying.

Applicants should propose arrangements which would ensure approximately a half teaching load and a half administrative load during the academic year in which the sabbatical takes place, as well as arrangements for other responsibilities, e.g. supervision of research students. The table below lists the arrangements which need to be made.


Discuss with
Responsibility for arrangements
Teaching to be removed in order to achieve approximately a half load Head of Academic Programmes Head of Academic Programmes, Head of School
Summer with no MSc project supervision Head of Academic Programmes Head of Academic Programmes
Academic Advisor role for existing advisees Head of Student Development and Support Head of Student Development and Support
Research Student supervision Research Students Tutor Applicant
Research projects (grants, RAs, RFs) Chair of Research Committee Applicant
Administrative posts/duties to be removed in order to achieve approximately a half load Head of Academic Programmes Head of Academic Programmes, Head of School
Mentoring Head of School Head of School

Research Committee determines whether reports on any previous sabbaticals were satisfactory and whether the proposed plan for the sabbatical is acceptable. Names of approved applicants are then passed to the Head of Academic Programmes and Head of School.

The Head of School in consultation with the Head of Academic Programmes makes recommendations to Staffing Committee, which as noted above makes the final decision as to the precise semester and year in which the sabbatical is to be granted.

After approval of a sabbatical application, if a major change of timing becomes necessary, the applicant must seek approval from Staffing Committee at the earliest possible time. In all cases, staff members requesting a change in previously agreed sabbatical arrangements must be mindful of the effect any such changes will have both on the original purposes for which the sabbatical was granted and the arrangements made for replacement teaching and administration.

6. Financial Assistance

Staff members may apply to the Research Committee for reimbursement of travel costs incurred in connection with a sabbatical. However, as staff would still be receiving full salary, any additional expenses will normally be their own responsibility (see also External Assistance below).

It is recognised that minor financial or other assistance from sources external to the University may facilitate and enhance the sabbatical. Thus, in general, the applicants are encouraged to seek external assistance. However, if an outside body is paying a salary, a special leave or a leave of absence may be more appropriate.

While applying for a sabbatical applicants are required to indicate any expected financial or other assistance from outside the University relating to the period of the sabbatical.

External assistance, in whatever form, must not detract from the basic reason for the sabbatical. The School will not approve conditions which unduly constrain or impede the study and research for which the sabbatical was intended.

7. Accountability

Staff members are required to provide the Head of School/College through the Research Committee with a written report on a sabbatical within one month of their return to normal duties. The report should permit the School to determine that the sabbatical has been used conscientiously and in good faith for the appropriate purposes. Where no satisfactory report of a sabbatical has been received within four months of the end of that sabbatical period, qualifying service will be deemed not to recommence until the date of receipt of a satisfactory report.

No application for sabbatical will be approved until all the applicant's previous sabbatical reports have been received and approved by the Research Committee.