[skip to content]

Research Office

Paid Research Leave Allocation

(revision May 2011)

This document sets out the conventions and procedures regarding the operation of the School’s paid research leave scheme for academic staff on research and teaching contracts. It seeks to cover the range of circumstances usually encountered but there may be occasional exceptional circumstances where the authority to accede to special arrangements is vested in the Deans and the Pro-Director (Research and Enterprise). These guidelines are for implementation from the academic session 2011-2012 and generally reflect current practice. In the transition period leading up to general adherence to these norms, any existing agreements that have been made between the School and individuals that differ from what is outlined here will be honoured by the School.

1. Terminology

‘Research leave’, ‘study leave’ and ‘sabbatical’ all refer to the same thing: research leave paid for by SOAS.  In this document they are distinguished from maternity leave, unpaid leave, externally-funded research leave.

2. Research leave and teaching obligations

Research leave is one of the most significant elements in the career development of research active academic staff. It is therefore important that the allocation of this resource, so precious both to the individuals who receive it and to the School which must finance it, be seen to be managed in the most fair, efficient and effective way possible. It is also important that everyone understands that the purpose of research leave is to give staff enhanced opportunities to do research in addition to the time allocated to research within the working week, and that as a consequence of the RAE/REF system there must be monitoring both of individuals’ plans for research leave and of their subsequent outcomes. In the case of most externally funded research leave this is achieved by external peer review. A similar transparency of procedure is intended to apply in the allocation of internally paid research leave to research-active academic staff. A balance has to be maintained between the need to support research and the need to consistently deliver a full programme of high-quality teaching within subject areas and departments. In the following guidelines on the provision of paid research leave it is axiomatic that all research leave is undertaken with minimum disruption to teaching programmes and this will be achieved by such measures as staggering the taking of leave between a group of colleagues, concentrating lectures into one term from two if feasible, cover arrangements between colleagues sanctioned by the relevant HOD and Dean, external funding to provide temporary teaching replacement, and any other arrangement to maintain quality teaching and supervision at minimal additional cost.

3. Research Leave allocation

The School is at present seeking to providing one term of paid research leave after twelve terms of teaching. Where a colleague takes on a role (such as HOD, ADR or Regional Centre Chair) that carries its own entitlement to research leave then the ‘clock stops’ on the counting of teaching terms until that term of office and its subsequent leave period are concluded:

Term1, 2, 34, 5, 6HODHODHODHODLeave7, 8, 9
Time away from teaching on research leave or for any other reason (e.g. sick leave, unpaid leave), whether paid for by the School or externally funded, does not count towards the entitlement to apply for paid research leave (except in the case of maternity leave, see under ‘9. Maternity leave’ below):
Term1, 2, 34, 5, 6Unpaid Leave7, 8, 910, 11, 12Leave, 1, 23, 4, 56, 7, 8

It is important to note that there is no absolute entitlement to this one term of leave after twelve terms of teaching. The Faculty Committees, as detailed below, can withhold this leave if they are not satisfied that the award of research is warranted either by past performance or by the likely outcome of the proposed research plan.

4. Two consecutive terms of research leave

When someone is taking two consecutive terms of paid research leave through a combination of internal and external funding, then the terms must be either Term 2 and Term 3 or Term 3 and Term 1 but cannot be Terms 1 and 2, except in the case of early-career researchers completing three years of probation (see below under Section 6.)

5. Limitation on accumulation of paid research leave

Research leave paid for by the School cannot extend beyond three terms at any one time. In circumstances where entitlements to leave from different roles, such as having been HOD and having accumulated 12 prior terms of teaching, would produce more than three consecutive terms of leave, then the taking of such leave will need to be staggered:

Term10, 11, 12HODHODHODHODLeave1, 2, 3Leave, 4, 5

Externally funded research leave can be taken at any time, subject to the approval of the relevant Head of Department and Dean of Faculty, and providing there is sufficient funding to cover all or most replacement teaching costs.

6. Early Career Academics and other new entrants in SOAS

The importance of safeguarding the research opportunities of junior academics on probation is recognised in the lesser obligations placed upon them in other areas.
The final paragraph of section 4 of the Code of Practice for Probation Staff states ‘On successful completion of the probation period of three years, the newly confirmed academic will be eligible for two terms of research leave”.  This leave will be subject to the usual vetting as detailed below.  

Post-probation leave (i.e. two-term sabbatical to be taken within two years of successful completion of probation) is available only to 'early career researchers', i.e. to those appointed to Lecturer positions with a full three-year probation period.  By agreement with the HOD and Dean, leave after 3 years of probation can be taken as Term 1 and Term 2 of a consequent year:

contract start
TermPROBPROBPROBLeave, 12,3,45,6,78,9,1011,12, Leave
Staff appointed to Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor positions, and Lecturers with accelerated probation periods (i.e. less than three years) are not 'early career researchers' and go straight into the regular one term after twelve calculation method for sabbatical leave.
probation year
Term1,2,34,5,67,8,910,11,12Leave, 1,23,4,56,7,89,10,11

7. Unpaid leave

Unpaid leave is agreed with the School separately and does not impinge upon the operation of the paid research leave scheme.

8. Maternity leave

Agreed maternity leave to a maximum of 3 consecutive terms can be counted in the accumulation of 12 terms of teaching:

Term1, 2, 3Mat Leave7, 8, 910, 11, 12Leave, 1, 23, 4, 56, 7, 89, 10, 11

9. Timing of paid research leave

The normal practice is for any term of paid research leave that is agreed after 12 terms of teaching to be taken immediately on conclusion of the 12th term.  However, it is permissible to bring the term forward or put it back by up to a year in consultation with the relevant Head of Department and Dean to ensure appropriate coverage of teaching and to stagger absences from the work of the department.

10. Procedure

Requests for research leave should be sent to the Head of Department. Whatever the length of the requested leave, each request should be accompanied by a statement of the individual’s leave plans. This statement, which need be no more than one side of A4 in length, should outline the nature of the research proposed, intended applications for external funding, arrangements for replacement teaching etc. Staff are expected to look for external funding to support their research leave.
The Head of Department should discuss the requests with the individuals concerned, and then pass the requests, along with the individuals’ statements and their own recommendations, to the Dean of Faculty. The Dean of Faculty should discuss the applications with the Associate Dean (Research) and they should agree a list of recommendations to be forwarded, along with the individual statements, to the Faculty Research Committee or Faculty Management Group as appropriate. The Faculty Research Committee or FMG should agree a list of proposed faculty research leaves, which should be passed to Faculty Board for final approval.
Each Faculty will need to set deadlines to ensure that the Faculty Board is able to approve the research leave by the end of term 2 of each session.
Staff who hold joint appointments must submit their request for research leave to their lead department, but must inform their secondary department of their plans. The Head of the lead department should consult the Head of the secondary department before a recommendation is made. If agreement cannot be reached, the relevant Deans will make a decision.
However the research leave has been funded, a brief report should be submitted within three months to the Associate Dean (Research) via the Head of Department. Reports should then be presented to the Faculty Research Committee or FMG. A copy of each report should also be sent to the Research Office. Reports should outline the research undertaken and the outcome. If this is substantially different from the original plan, an explanation of the reason for the difference should be given.

11. Research Leave awarded to holders of particular posts

As above, research leave granted for time spent in the posts listed below cannot also be counted towards the one term of research leave after four years of teaching. Except in the case of the Deans and the Pro-Director, applications for leave will need to be considered as outlined above. In all cases staff are expected to look for external funding to support their research leave. There is still a requirement to produce an outline of the intended research when the application for leave is made, and a report after the research leave has been taken.
For Pro-Directors, Deans, Associate Deans and Heads of Department, any reduction of a year or more in the terms of office outlined below will entail a reduction in research leave of one term of leave for each year less than the full term of office.

11.1 Chairs of Regional Centres

are entitled to one term of research leave for each period of three years they serve as Regional Centre Chair, subject to a review of their performance to be carried out by the Pro-Director (Research and Enterprise), in conjunction with the appropriate Dean.

11.2 Heads of Departments

are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of their term of office (a minimum of four years for Professors and three years for Readers/Senior Lecturers).

11.3 Associate Deans

are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of their term of office (a minimum of three years).

11.4 Deans

are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of their term of office (a minimum of five years). The application for leave will be considered by the Pro-Directors.

11.5 The Pro-Directors

are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of his or her term of office (a minimum of five years). The application for leave will be considered by the Director.

In each case, the agreed leave will need to be reported to Executive Board or the relevant Faculty Board.