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How does a Sabbatical work?

BobbyCTBobbyCT Posts: 1,129Registered User Senior Member
edited September 2010 in Parents Forum
When we dropped my D off to college, her Academic Advisor, a professor, mentioned that he was going to be on sabbatical next semester but would be available to her at anytime. I have read and heard about sabbaticals for years but always assumed it was for research purposes only.

How does a sabbatical work? Is there a restriction on time and what a professor can do on a sabbatical? Does it have to be research or school related or could it be personal time? Finally, do they get paid while away? I have heard the term so often but don't really understand how it works or its purpose. Thanks!
Post edited by BobbyCT on

Replies to: How does a Sabbatical work?

  • MidwestMom2Kids_MidwestMom2Kids_ Posts: 6,673Registered User Senior Member
    Her is how I understand it:

    At many universities, a tenured professor can - after a good number of productive years - take a semester to do something interesting in her field. She would need to get approval of her plans; the plans would yield useful work (published papers) in her field. She would generally be somewhat available by email but it would not at all be like she were right there on campus. She would be paid.

    If she were taking personal time, it would really not be a sabbatical. It would be a leave of absence or something like that. (I have heard people talk about refreshing personal time taken off as "taking a sabbatical" but that's not what academics usually mean when they use the word.)

    This definitely varies from college to college, and - as many schools are using more instructors and giving fewer people tenure - I think fewer people are taking sabbaticals.

    Toward the end of this semester, your D might want to figure out who can help her with logistic advice during next semester when the advisor is gone; she might need some quick answers when she is registering for NEXT fall's classes. Her "real" advisor can help from afar with long term issues or general issues, but sometimes a student might needs timely advice, especially during registration.
  • jinglejingle Posts: 1,198Registered User Senior Member
    Sabbaticals are semesters when professors are released from teaching duties in order to concentrate on research. If they are staying in town, however (as opposed to going to research center or library elsewhere) they often keep their undergraduate advisees as your child's professor is doing; and even if they aren't staying in town, graduate advisors keep their dissertation students.

    Different institutions have different criteria for sabbaticals, and some-- e.g. institutions that don't expect a lot of research from faculty--don't have them at all. Generally you have to have taught a certain number of semesters, e.g. 10 or 14, before you are eligible for research leave. Sometimes also (as at my institution) they are awarded on a competitive basis, and you need not only to have completed the requisite number of teaching semesters but to submit a winning research proposal. At some institutions sabbaticals involve reduced pay; at others, you have a choice of taking a semester at full pay or two semesters at half pay, provided your department can manage its teaching without you for that time. I've often combined half-time sabbatical pay with an outside grant that made up the rest of my salary.

    At the end of a sabbatical, the prof submits a report on the research conducted, which is then used in his or her performance evaluation.

    Somebody who just wanted to take time off to do something non-job-related, would take a leave of absence. At my institution, that kind of leave would be unpaid unless it was for a medical crisis or childbirth, and it would have to be negotiated with the department chair and dean.
  • starbrightstarbright Posts: 4,660Registered User Senior Member
    It varies a lot by institution. At ours both tenured and untenured can take 6mo or 12 mo sabbatical after every 4 or 6 years (with differing % of one's regular salary, varying from 65-90%), depending upon the option taken. It exempts one from administrative work and teaching duties and general presence. One requests sabbatical with clarification of what their goals will be during the sabbatical and submits a report afterwards (but in our case, performance is based always on your cv. and publication record, whether on sabbatical or not). Sabbatical goals are usually for one's research program (and in our field, it is common to go another institution to work with colleagues, write a book, or start a new research program). Though I have heard of some that went into industry, started a foundation or other professional activities related to their research expertise. I typically continue to work with my students who are involved in research, regardless of where I am during sabbatical (everything is so virtual now it doesn't matter too much).
  • qialahqialah Posts: 1,635Registered User Senior Member
    My H is a professor at a UC. Sabbatical pay/length of time you can be off is computed on a complicated formula based on number of semesters he has taught. The sabbatical needs to be approved by the department chair, but it's pretty pro-forma. There's no requirement that you do research.

    Being on sabbatical gets you relief from teaching and from administrative duties. At least for H, it doesn't give you relief from your advisees or from reading PhD theses or writing recommendations.
  • ticklemepinkticklemepink Posts: 2,764Registered User Senior Member
    Don't worry about your D not getting good advising.

    I agree with what others have said. I've had my own professors go on sabbaticals while as a student. Unless they're abroad, I've never had any trouble staying in touch (although e-mails may take a little time, depending on their internet access). Heck, my own MA thesis adviser went on sabbatical just as I was my final stages of thesis-writing (meaning a LOT of revision/editing work!!!) but she was actually terrific about getting drafts back to me before deadlines.

    However, some students claim otherwise that their advisers/professors have gone MIA... it just really depends on the professor's personality and personal opinion of students, I guess. This professor sounds like he can be trusted.

    My advice is just have D meet with this professor a couple times this semester to lay out the groundwork for her curriculum through Fall 2011 and that she has all the opportunities to ask every kind of question out there. Even if, say, she isn't 100% sure about being pre-med- just ask at the time when she has the chance rather than later with a different person who isn't in charge of her (who may very well have a different opinion). She should also foster a relationship with one of her professors so that this particular professor can be *there* for her for advice when she just needs to talk to someone.
  • demeterdemeter Posts: 1,367Registered User Senior Member
    I was just wondering about sabbaticals today, since one of my former professors is "on leave" for the academic year. I've only had this professor once, for a lecture course. I don't have a particularly close relationship with this professor, but I'm interested in applying what I learned in that class to my senior thesis. Unfortunately, the only other professor who might have expertise in this subfield is also on leave (and I've never spoken to this other professor before). Would it be appropriate for me to email my former professor and ask him for occasional guidance and reading suggestions?

    Should my thesis proposal be approved, I'll probably be assigned an advisor who is not on leave, but his/her background won't be in the subfield that I'm particularly interested in. Of course, I would work closely with my assigned advisor, but it would be nice to have my former professor's input as well.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Posts: 24,853Registered User Senior Member
    "Would it be appropriate for me to email my former professor and ask him for occasional guidance and reading suggestions?"

    That would be fine.
  • lololulololu Posts: 1,325Registered User Senior Member
    "Would it be appropriate for me to email my former professor and ask him for occasional guidance and reading suggestions?"

    That would be fine.

    With one caveat. Follow his lead. If he does not respond or is very short in response don't push it. "On leave" can mean many things, he may dealing with a medical issue, a family issue, or something else entirely. "On leave" is different from sabbatical in that the professor is released not just from teaching and administrative duties, but from all duties connected to the college. Most professors will try and respond, but there may be reasons, which he will not divulge to you, that it will not be practical for him to work extensively with you.
  • demeterdemeter Posts: 1,367Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks, NSM and lololu. Unfortunately, the department website doesn't distinguish between "on leave" and "sabbatical," so I'll just have to be extra careful about the way I word my initial email.
  • stradmomstradmom Posts: 3,628Registered User Senior Member
    Remember that your college advisor is not a guidance counselor. At many schools, all professors are assigned a certain number of advisees. Some professors are good at this and enjoy the work, others see it as getting in the way of their "real" job. In most cases, they have had little to no training, and any mistakes made along the way will need to be corrected by the student (even if they were given incorrect advice by the professor). It is imperative that the student be conversant with the degree requirements and well-informed as to their own academic progress so as not to be surprised with an extra semester or year at the alleged end of their program....sabbatical or not.
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