C. Research Leaves of Absence for Tenured Faculty Members

Tenured faculty members should refer to the “General Leave Policies” section, in addition to the provisions summarized below. Note:  Professors in Residence should refer to the “General Leave Policies,” in addition to following the policies described below for tenured faculty members. 

(1)   Sabbatical Leave and Unpaid Research Leave

The purpose of sabbaticals and unpaid research leaves is to make it possible for members of the tenured faculty to take time off from their regular University responsibilities, including teaching and administrative service, in order to focus on their scholarly research. Tenured faculty on paid sabbatical or unpaid research leave are expected to continue to conduct their research, advise and mentor their students and trainees, and follow FAS and University policies, including (in the case of paid sabbatical) the 20 percent rule, which states that no more than 20 percent of one’s total professional effort may be directed to professional activities outside Harvard (see Chapter 2 for more information on this rule).

(2)   Duration of and Eligibility for Sabbatical and Unpaid Research Leaves

Faculty may not be on sabbatical and/or unpaid research leave for more than one year at a time.

Tenured professors are ordinarily eligible for a paid semester of sabbatical leave after every six semesters in residence teaching.[1] (Please see Section 3C3 below for a policy exception related to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Faculty may extend the period of leave to a full academic year by combining a term of unpaid research leave with a term of sabbatical leave. In this case, sabbatical leaves may be taken either as one semester at full salary or as an academic year at half salary.

Faculty may take a term or an academic year of unpaid research leave when otherwise eligible for a paid sabbatical leave (i.e., ordinarily, after six terms in residence teaching). See information on banking sabbatical leaves below.

Faculty members holding joint appointments with another Harvard Faculty should refer to their offer letters and associated documentation for information on their leave eligibility.

(3)   Deferral of Sabbatical Leaves

Sabbatical leave time does not ordinarily accumulate if the period between leaves is more than six terms. Therefore, if a faculty member opts not to take a leave in a term in which the faculty member is eligible, excess sabbatical “credit” is not ordinarily applied toward a future sabbatical. Six terms in residence teaching continue to be required before a subsequent leave may be taken. For example, if a sabbatical is taken after eight semesters in residence teaching (rather than six), six semesters in residence teaching following that leave (rather than four) will be necessary in order to earn the next sabbatical.

A faculty member may request to delay a sabbatical leave for one or two terms for reasons of pressing departmental or University service. In such cases, with the prior written approval of the divisional dean, the required period in residence teaching following the deferred leave may be reduced. For example, if a sabbatical is postponed from the spring until the fall because a faculty member is serving as director of undergraduate studies, then the required period in residence teaching following the sabbatical may, with prior approval, be five terms rather than six.

Note: For AY 2020-2021, the Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS approved the following policy addendum. Given the goal of delivering a high-quality learning experience despite the COVID-19 pandemic, tenured professors scheduled to take a paid sabbatical during Fall 2020 were allowed to postpone their sabbatical without penalty for one or two semesters if they wished to remain on campus (virtually or otherwise) to teach their classes. Tenured professors scheduled to take a paid sabbatical during Spring 2021 were allowed to postpone their sabbatical without penalty for one semester, for the same reason. Thus, the semester or two for which a faculty member deferred his/her/their sabbatical will count as “credit” towards the required six semesters in residence teaching that ordinarily must occur between sabbaticals. After the faculty member takes his/her/their sabbatical, the six-semester clock will start up again, as usual, upon his/her/their return. Any tenured faculty member who postpones his/her/their sabbatical must still adhere to the following Handbook provision: “Ordinarily, faculty members should not be out of the Harvard classroom for more than a year at a time.” In addition, the Handbook’s provisions regarding banking of sabbaticals remain in effect. (Please see Section 4 below for provisions on banking sabbaticals.)

(4)   Banking, Pulling Forward, and Accrual of Sabbatical Leaves

A faculty member may elect to “bank” one term of sabbatical leave by spending twelve terms in residence teaching in order to earn one academic year of leave at full pay. (Note: The option of “banking” sabbatical credit began following sabbaticals taken in 2003-2004 or later.) If, after six terms in residence teaching, a faculty member takes an unpaid leave, the faculty member may “bank” the earned term of sabbatical leave and take it in conjunction with a subsequently earned term of sabbatical taken at least six terms after returning from the unpaid leave.

Faculty members will not ordinarily continue to accrue sabbatical eligibility beyond twelve terms in residence teaching.

In exceptional circumstances, with decanal approval, tenured faculty may also “pull forward” for use, from the future, one term of sabbatical leave at full pay. Upon return from using this sabbatical, faculty must first “pay back” the leave time that they have used, before starting to accrue time again towards their next paid sabbatical.

(5)   Sabbatical for Those Promoted from the Tenure-Track Ranks

When a faculty member is promoted to tenure from the tenure-track ranks, their first sabbatical as a tenured professor works as described below.

Note: The policies outlined in a., b., c., and d. below apply to faculty members in all academic divisions and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with the exception of “Category 2” departments in the Division of Science.  (See Chapter 3, Section E1, “Eligibility for Paid and Unpaid Research Leave,” for information on which Science departments are “Category 1” or “Category 2.”)

a.   If, by the time promotion to tenure occurs, the faculty member has used up their allotted semester of paid leave from the associate professor term,[2] the faculty member is eligible for their first semester of paid sabbatical leave as a tenured professor after six terms in residence teaching have elapsed, counting from the start of the tenured appointment and regardless of when their last associate professor leave occurred.

b.   If, by the time the faculty member is promoted to tenure, the faculty member has not used up their allotted semester of paid leave from the associate professor term,[3] the faculty member now has a semester of paid sabbatical leave that can be used immediately after being appointed as a tenured professor or else at a later time, in accordance with the sabbatical policies for tenured faculty on timing, duration, accrual, banking, and pulling forward described in Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4.

c.   Any unpaid leave not used during a faculty member’s associate professor term does not roll over to be used during the faculty member’s tenured appointment.

d.   Upon promotion to tenure, faculty members follow the sabbatical policies for tenured faculty on timing, duration, accrual, banking, and pulling forward described in Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 above.

Note: The policies described below apply to faculty members in “Category 2” of the Division of Science, who are not eligible for a semester of paid leave during their assistant professor and associate professor terms. 

Upon promotion to tenure, the faculty member is eligible for their first semester of paid sabbatical leave as a tenured professor after six terms in residence teaching have elapsed, counting from the start of the tenured appointment and regardless of when their last associate professor leave occurred. Faculty members in “Category 2” departments must also observe the policies stated in 5c. and 5d. above.

(6)   Compensation during Sabbatical and Unpaid Research Leaves

A faculty member on sabbatical leave at full salary may not ordinarily receive compensation in the form of salary from another academic institution or external (grant or non-grant) funding source (beyond the allowable three ninths). Those on sabbatical at half salary may receive external compensation, but if the funding is paid through Harvard, the total compensation received from all funding sources during the academic year may not exceed the faculty member’s full-time nine-month base salary at Harvard and three months’ (three ninths) supplemental salary. In such cases, compensation that exceeds the base salary will ordinarily be converted, in accordance with the policies of the funding source, into research support. Please be advised that all salary payments made through the University carry a charge for fringe benefits. Therefore, it is important for faculty to work with their financial administrators when applying for outside funding.

Faculty members on fully paid and half-paid sabbatical leave may receive supplemental compensation from external sources that is paid through Harvard, so long as the total amount received from all sources does not exceed the equivalent of three months’ salary. For additional information on faculty supplementary salary and payments, see https://research.fas.harvard.edu/policies/outside-activities-holders-academic-appointments#addendum and https://research.fas.harvard.edu/policies/fas-supplemental-salary-payment-policy

A faculty member taking an unpaid research leave may receive compensation from another academic institution or external (non-grant) funding source. If the funding is paid through Harvard, the total compensation received from all funding sources during the academic year may not exceed the faculty member’s full-time nine-month base salary at Harvard and three months’ supplemental salary. In such cases, compensation that exceeds the base salary will ordinarily be converted, in accordance with the policies of the funding source, into research support.

Some external (non-grant) funding sources provide compensation directly to the faculty member, rather than running it through Harvard. In such cases, those on sabbatical at half salary may receive total compensation during the academic year in excess of their nine-month base salary and three months’ supplemental salary. It is very important, however, that faculty members remain mindful of the policies reflecting conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment, which apply at all times. Please see the following references (see also faculty research policies at https://research.fas.harvard.edu/policies/faculty-research): the University Statement on Outside Activities of Holders of Academic Appointments (available at https://provost.harvard.edu/statement-outside-activities-holders-academic-appointments), University Policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest (see http://files.vpr.harvard.edu/files/vpr-documents/files/harvard_university_fcoi_policy_4_0.pdf), FAS/SEAS Policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest Disclosures (available at https://research.fas.harvard.edu/policies/financial-conflicts-interest-disclosures), FAS/SEAS Policies Relating to Research & Other Professional Activities (available at https://research.fas.harvard.edu/policies-relating-research-and-other-professional-activities-within-and-outside-university), and FAS/SEAS Policies on Effort Reporting for Academic Year Effort and Supplemental Salary (available at https://research.fas.harvard.edu/effort-reporting) for more information. It is expected that each faculty member will, as noted in the Statement on Outside Activities of Holders of Academic Appointments, “conduct outside professional pursuits in ways that respect their responsibilities to their home institution. Along with status as a full-time Harvard academic appointee comes the expectation that one’s primary professional duties are to Harvard, and that outside professional activities will not conflict with obligations to one’s students, to colleagues, and to the University as a whole.”  In practice, this means that, while on half salary from Harvard, faculty members’ formal agreements with other organizations should reflect a half-time status at those organizations.[4]

Faculty members on sabbatical leave may still direct 20 percent of their effort to outside activities related to their areas of expertise.

Any questions or concerns about potential conflicts of interest should be brought in advance to Lauren Ferrell (research@fas.harvard.edu), the FAS/SEAS Designated Institutional Official for Conflicts of Interest, in FAS Research Administration Services. Any questions or concerns about potential conflicts of commitment should be brought in advance to the attention of the Office for Faculty Affairs.

During a paid sabbatical leave, the University continues to make retirement fund contributions on behalf of the faculty member. Similarly, health plan benefits, life insurance, and disability insurance continue to be effective, and the faculty member’s payments are deducted directly from the faculty member's paycheck.

During an unpaid leave, no retirement fund contributions are made by the University; however, health plan benefits, life insurance, and disability insurance continue to be effective so long as the individual makes the same contributions that the individual would have made if not on leave. In such cases, the University continues to cover its share of the relevant costs. Please note: Paycheck deductions for Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts stop during unpaid leaves. For more information about benefits during paid and unpaid leaves, faculty members should contact the Harvard Benefits Office directly.

[1] To be eligible for sabbatical, tenured faculty must ordinarily be in residence for six semesters, and their total teaching during that time must amount to six semesters’ worth of teaching (consonant with departmental teaching-load norms). If their teaching happens to be distributed in such a way that they did not teach every semester (e.g., perhaps they taught two courses in one semester, rather than one course in the fall term and one in the spring term), they are still ordinarily eligible for sabbatical, if they have satisfied the residence requirement and completed the total required amount of teaching. Similarly, throughout Section 3.C (“Research Leaves of Absence for Tenured Faculty Members”), references to time “in residence teaching” recognize that teaching may not necessarily occur during every semester, but faculty must still satisfy residence requirements and complete required, total amounts of teaching in order to be eligible for leave.

[2] For faculty in the Department of Economics, this would be their “allotted semester of paid leave from their assistant professor or associate professor term.”

[3] For faculty in the Department of Economics, this would be their “allotted semester of paid leave from their assistant professor or associate professor term.”

[4] Your income may need to be disclosed. Please see Chapter 2, “Compensation Related to Non-Harvard Activities,” for information on conflicts of interest and financial disclosure.