Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Leave and Top-up Policy

Below are pdfs which provide an overview of the most important details of the policies governing the terms of leaves for full-time tenured professorial and non-tenured professorial rank faculty in the Arts & Sciences. More detailed information is available in the Provost’s Faculty Handbook (available on-line at

Specific questions about leave policies and process may be addressed to

-       Michael Susi, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs ( ; 212-854-6106),

-       Jessie Tong, Assistant Director of Academic Affairs (; 212-851-0755), or

-       Joseph Werst, Director, Academic Appointments and Payroll ( ;212-854-6110)

The President has delegated to the Provost the power to grant leaves of absence for reasonable cause and for such length of time as he judges the occasion may require.

The primary objective of the University’s policies on leaves is to free its academic officers from their normal duties to conduct research, write, or otherwise engage in scholarly or professional activity. There are three types of faculty leaves for scholarly and professional purposes: sabbaticals (for faculty with tenure), research leaves with or without salary, and exemptions from teaching duties. In addition, faculty are given leaves for medical reasons, child care, military or public service, and compelling personal need.

Leaves contribute to the University’s dual mission of research and education by allowing faculty to pursue their scholarly goals and acquire knowledge that makes them better teachers. With the exception of sabbaticals and junior faculty development leaves, however, leaves for scholarly purposes are not an entitlement. They are granted at the discretion of the Provost on assurance from the department or school that they will not interfere with the staffing of its curricular obligations. If the number of faculty interested in taking leaves compromises the ability of a department or school to meet its responsibilities, the chair or Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences may require some to defer their proposed leaves until a later time. In such cases, sabbaticals and junior faculty development leaves are given priority over other types of leaves.

Leaves of absence for scholarly purposes, and exemptions from teaching duties normally correspond to an academic term or year. The University also seeks to coordinate child care and public service leaves with the academic calendar. Other types of leave – medical, military, and for compelling personal reasons – may begin and end on other dates.

Most leaves are authorized for no more than one year at a time, but the Provost may approve a second consecutive year on the recommendation of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences. Faculty normally may be on leave for a maximum of two consecutive years. Further extensions are rarely given, except in the case of long-term leaves for medical reasons or military service.

Faculty, with certain exceptions described below, are expected to return to the University for at least one year of full-time service after a leave of absence. Those who do not return after a leave with salary are expected to reimburse the University for its cost. The Provost may waive these requirements on the recommendation of the Executive Vice President.

All faculty are expected to be in residence for at least two years of full-time service between leaves of any kind. Exceptions to these provisions require the approval of the Executive Vice President and the Provost.

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT BENEFITS: Leaves may affect an officer’s benefits, depending upon the terms of the benefits program, the amount of base salary the individual receives, and whether the period of absence can be classified as a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Faculty may consult Michael Susi or Joey Werst about the Arts and Sciences policy for junior faculty leave benefits and a counselor in Human Resources for detailed information about their benefits while they are on leave.  This is especially important in the case of leaves without pay.arch Administration and Assistant Provost for Academic Appointments.