Guidelines for leave for academic staff

Last updated August 2023

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All applications for leave from normal academic duties (sabbatical leave, leave to hold research awards, special leave etc.) must be accompanied by a recommendation from the individual's department or faculty board, as appropriate, and must also be approved by the divisional board which has the authority to grant leave.

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The University's scheme for sabbatical leave, and for dispensation from lecturing obligations (for associate professors where the college is the main employer) is set out in the relevant regulations

Application forms and advice on individuals' entitlement may be obtained from the relevant divisional contact.

Completed application forms (signed by the head of department/faculty board chair where appropriate) should be returned to the relevant divisional contact for processing and for faculty board/divisional board approval.

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In some circumstances individuals may wish to take leave for purposes covered by the sabbatical leave scheme at a time when they do not have sufficient sabbatical entitlement. Such circumstances might include an unrepeatable opportunity to pursue academic interests, or a need to undertake fieldwork for a period exceeding one year. In such cases leave could be granted in whole or in part as sabbatical leave in advance of entitlement if a good academic case could be demonstrated.

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Applications for leave to accept an appointment in the public service of national or international importance are normally granted by the divisional board, provided that:

  • the purpose of the leave can be shown to be compatible with the academic interests of the department or faculty;
  • the department or faculty (and the college in the case of joint appointments) supports the application and is able to cover the individual's duties including examining and graduate supervision; and
  • it is clear that the individual intends to return to university service after the period of leave.

Applications for leave to hold such offices should be made to the divisional registrar, faculty board secretary or other officer as notified locally.

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Applications to national bodies of prestigious and competitive research awards (for example, British Academy/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowships) are normally granted by the divisional board provided that the department or faculty (and the college in the case of joint appointments) supports the application and that appropriate arrangements can be made to cover the individual's duties, including examining and graduate supervision, should the application be successful.

Applications for research funding (eg fellowships or grants) by members of the Humanities Division must be notified to the appropriate Divisional Research Facilitator at an early stage.

The Research Facilitator will advise on the faculty’s process for considering and confirming its support for an application, and normally this will need to be secured at least one month before the funder deadline. Academic staff should also notify their College Senior Tutor, and ensure that they gain in principle support for any period of research leave. College consent must be forwarded to the Research Facilitator and is required by the faculty as part of the internal checking and authorisation process. The Research Facilitator will provide advice and support for the application, will liaise with Research Services to obtain University approval for the submission of the application. The Research Services deadline for checking and approving applications is normally one week ahead of the funder deadline.

NB All funding applications must be submitted through the relevant faculty (i.e. the faculty will hold and administer the funding if successful).



All applications to outside bodies for research funding must be checked and authorised by Research Services.


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Applications for leave other than those outlined above may be considered as applications for special unpaid leave. Applications may be considered if they meet one or both of the following criteria:

  1. providing academic benefit to the University;
  2. providing a career development opportunity for the individual, hence aiding staff retention.

Activities under these criteria might include visiting another institution to study specialised laboratory techniques, taking up a visiting lecturership or visiting professorship at a prestigious department abroad, an extended period of fieldwork etc.

In all cases, it is essential that the consent of the college (where appropriate) and of the department/faculty board is obtained before an application is made to the divisional board. In considering applications, colleges and departments/faculty boards must be satisfied that the proposed leave fits with their overall plans and objectives, and it must be clear that the individual's duties for the college and for the department/faculty, including examining and graduate supervision, can be covered satisfactorily. Divisional boards will consider applications both on their own merits and in the context of overall operational needs, and will not approve applications which are prejudicial to the teaching and research of the department/faculty or which are not supported by the applicant's college.

Occasionally applications are made for leave to enable an individual to accept a fixed-term appointment in another academic institution (other than routine visiting appointments held during sabbatical leave). In such instances the college and the department/faculty board would need to be satisfied that the application was in line with their overall plans and objectives, as above, and that all operational requirements could be covered satisfactorily, before the application was put to the divisional board. Applicants would normally be expected to give a commitment to return to Oxford after the period of leave. It should be noted that the longer the appointment at the other institution, the less likely it is that leave will be granted.

Leave will not be granted, except in the most truly exceptional circumstances, to enable an individual to decide whether to accept a permanent post elsewhere.

It is recognised that some offers are made to individuals at short notice. Given the fact that all members of the academic staff have clear obligations to the University and to their college under the terms of their contracts, no such offer should be accepted without the support of the college and the department/faculty and the explicit approval of the divisional board. It is essential, therefore, that any prospect of such an offer is discussed, in confidence, with the college and with the Divisional Registrar or Head of Administration and Finance (or equivalent) at the earliest opportunity so as to avoid delays, and the possibility of refusal, if a firm offer is then made at very short notice.

All applications for special unpaid leave should be made to the Divisional Registrar, Head of Administration and Finance (or equivalent) or other officer as notified locally, who will also be able to advise on the likelihood of success of any application on the university side; the college's consent in appropriate cases must be obtained before an application is put to the divisional board.

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Divisions may, if they wish, with the concurrence of the college in relevant cases, grant additional paid leave outside sabbatical entitlement, funded from their own resources, to enable staff to undertake projects of mutual benefit to the individual and the University. Examples might include asking a member of staff to concentrate for a term wholly on considering revised teaching patterns across a whole subject area; or permitting a member of staff to teach at another university for a term to foster inter-institutional links, possibly as part of an exchange arrangement.

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Sabbatical leave and dispensation from lecturing duties for associate professors where the college is the main employer: leave will be granted with stipend (although it may be granted without stipend if taken for the purpose of holding a remunerated visiting appointment under 7 above).

Leave to hold a public office: leave will be granted without stipend.

Leave to hold a research award: the arrangements vary depending on the regulations governing the award, but it is normal for individuals holding such awards to continue to receive their usual university stipend, the awarding body either providing funds to make a replacement appointment or reimbursing the University for the individual's salary costs.

Special leave: leave will normally be granted without stipend, but see 7 above.

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Special leave does not count as qualifying service for the purposes of calculating future entitlement to sabbatical leave or dispensation from lecturing duties. However it does not count against an individual's future entitlement.

When special leave has been granted for the purposes of holding a public office or a research award, sabbatical leave is not normally granted in the period immediately preceding or following the period of special leave, although some flexibility may be exercised at the divisional board's discretion in respect of periods of special leave not exceeding one year, especially in connection with the holding of research awards.

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