Sabbatical Leave

Guidelines for sabbatical leaves

Tenured faculty and librarians are periodically eligible to apply for paid or partially paid sabbatical leaves for the purpose of providing sustained time without teaching or service responsibilities so they may pursue scholarly research and creative activity that would be difficult or impossible to do without the leave period.

These opportunities for enrichment benefit both the faculty member and the university, provided they meet the goals of the sabbatical leave program.

When an eligible faculty member applies for a sabbatical leave, the application is evaluated for its merit, appropriateness, and feasibility. Eligibility to apply for a sabbatical leave does not equate to a right to take one. Appropriate sabbatical projects are focused on research or creative activity, rather than teaching or service activities. Additionally, department and school/college resources or schedules must be able to accommodate the particular timing of the proposed leave.

Campus and university policies governing sabbatical leaves include:


A faculty member is eligible for one sabbatical leave during each period of seven years of full-time service in faculty rank (including time on sabbatical leave), following the completion of the first six years of full-time service as a faculty member at Indiana University.

If you have questions about your current or future eligibility for a sabbatical leave, contact the Office of Academic Personnel Policies and Services at or 812-855-2026.

Terms of leave

A faculty member who is eligible for a sabbatical leave may apply for the leave in the academic year prior to the planned leave.

Sabbatical leaves may be taken for one of the following:

  • One semester, during which the faculty member is entitled to his or her full salary
  • The full academic year, during which the faculty member is entitled to half of his or her salary

Application process

If you are a faculty member who would like to take a leave and are eligible for a sabbatical leave based on accumulating sufficient years of full-time service, you must complete and submit the Application for Sabbatical Leave in the academic year prior to the proposed leave period.

The application is routed through successive levels of administrative review and approval—including the department, the school or college dean, the campus Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence, and the vice provost for faculty and academic affairs.

The application must be accompanied by a statement from the department chairperson evaluating the proposed project and explaining scheduling adjustments that can be made within the department. Further guidance for chairs/academic associate deans can be found here: 

Guidance on Chair/Academic Associate Dean Recommendation Letter

In addition to the hard copy of the application, you must also email a copy of your application to so we can add your application to our database.

Application for Sabbatical Leave

Application timeline

To ensure there is sufficient time to efficiently process sabbatical leave applications, we have developed the following timeline:

  1. Inform your departmental chairperson or dean by September 15 of your intention to apply for leave during the subsequent academic year.
  2. Submit your completed (paper) application to your chairperson by October 1. Please respond fully to each question in the application.
  3. Also submit an electronic copy of your application by email to by October 1, so that your application may be incorporated into our database.
  4. Chairpersons will act on the application, including appending the statement of evaluation, and forward it to the dean’s office by October 15.
  5. Deans will forward a copy with the dean’s recommendation to the vice provost for faculty and academic affairs by November 15.
  6. Assuming the above deadlines have been met, the Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence and the vice provost for faculty and academic affairs will complete their reviews and notify applicants of the outcome in February.

Obligations and responsibilities

A faculty member or librarian who is granted a sabbatical leave has several obligations to keep in mind:

Service to IU after sabbatical

The sabbatical leave program applies only to faculty and librarians who will return to their positions at IU for at least one academic year following a period of sabbatical leave. For example, a sabbatical leave will not be granted for the last year of a faculty member’s service prior to retirement.

Reimbursement to IU

To be eligible for sabbatical leave, a faculty member must agree to reimburse IU for any salary, retirement contributions, and insurance premiums paid during the sabbatical leave in the event the faculty member does not return for at least one year following the leave.

Report on Completion of Sabbatical

Within three months of the completion of your sabbatical leave, you must submit a report of your activities to our office and to your department chairperson and dean. A completed report is a requirement for approval of any subsequent sabbatical leave application and will be appended to such applications for review by the Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence.

Submit Report on Completion of Sabbatical Leave

Common questions about sabbatical leave

Sabbaticals come in two basic forms—a semester at full salary, or an academic year at half salary.

You are eligible, if you are tenured, once in every seven years of full-time service following your sixth year of full-time service as a faculty member. Pre-tenure and non-tenure-track faculty members are not eligible for sabbaticals.

Under some circumstances, eligibility questions can be tricky. To inquire about your eligibility, contact the Office of Academic Personnel Policies and Services at or 812-855-9092.

Not exactly. The sabbatical leave program is not an entitlement.

Campus and university policies recognize the benefit that sabbatical leaves can have for both the faculty member and the university when the purpose of the program is fulfilled by the proposed sabbatical leave and when resources and schedules can accommodate a faculty member’s absence. Therefore, there is an application requirement that ensures that IU’s investment in your career through a sabbatical leave is for an appropriate project and can be accommodated by your department and school.

It is more accurate to think of the sabbatical leave program as an opportunity for which you may qualify with an appropriate project, rather than an entitlement. Please note, however, that the relevant policies encourage department and school administrators to rearrange schedules—as much as possible and without imposing too much cost or disruption—to permit eligible faculty to take leaves when they desire.

A sabbatical project must be focused on research and/or creative activity. Projects that are primarily focused on teaching or service are not eligible.

In fact, generally, the most common reason for denying a sabbatical application is that the faculty member has proposed to use the leave to write or revise a textbook.

Application for Sabbatical Leave form

The Application for Sabbatical Leave form asks six questions (not including the request for your signature and those of your chair and dean). In your responses, please write for a broad academic audience.

Please answer the questions in enough detail for the Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence to evaluate your project accurately. There is no set limit on the length of responses to the application questions, but a narrative of 2 to 4 pages total is usually sufficient if well-constructed. (A narrative of 2 or 3 sentences, or a list of topics, is not sufficient. Example: on Question 4, Applicant's Qualifications it is not sufficient to write "see vita". Instead the committee will expect a summary in your own words how your prior work will support this sabbatical plan.) 

The approval of your department (if your school has departments) and your school is required, and should be indicated by (a) signatures of your chair and dean (or dean's designate) on the cover page of your application, and (b) a statement/letter of support by either your chair or your school's dean (or dean’s designate).

Our office checks your eligibility, but you can always ask ahead of time to be certain.

If you’ve had a previous sabbatical and haven’t yet submitted the required report, you will need to do so before a new application can be reviewed.

Report on Completion of Sabbatical form

It depends on how your salary is handled and where your teaching responsibilities lie. If you have appointments in two instructional units but all your salary comes through one of them and you regularly teach only in that one, then it is the only one that has to sign off. (Notifying the other unit as a courtesy is a good idea, of course.)

On the other hand, if both units pay some of your salary and you teach regularly in both of them, they both have to make financial and instructional adjustments to cover your sabbatical. Therefore, they both have to approve your application.

If one of your appointments is in a noninstructional unit (for example, a research center directorship), contact Associate Vice Provost Judah Cohen at or 812-855-2809 for advice.

The Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence consists of four faculty members and is chaired by one of the associate vice provosts.

The criteria the committee will use to evaluate the applications include an evaluation of the purpose and rationale for your project, the procedure/methods/plan for your project, and your background and qualifications as they relate to the suitability and feasibility of the project.

In some cases, the committee may ask an associate vice provost to talk with you about your project and suggest revisions before a decision is made.

If your application is turned down, you will receive a letter of explanation. If you disagree with the explanation, you will have an opportunity to appeal to the committee. Please contact Judah Cohen, the associate vice provost who chairs the committee and administers the sabbatical leave program, if you are in this position. He may be reached at or 812-855-2809.

The answer is a qualified “yes.” This question is complicated. Normally, the minimal sabbatical unit is one semester. While we recognize that faculty members in the performing and studio arts can have special needs, we also realize that small-increment sabbaticals can create major financial and instructional difficulties for departments and schools. Getting your teaching covered can be especially difficult.

If you, your department, and your school all agree and can show that unusual circumstances make a small-increment sabbatical the only feasible option, our office will certainly work with everyone to overcome the obstacles.

You can help to maximize the chances of a successful resolution by giving all parties plenty of advance notice, and therefore ample time to identify and avert potential problems.

Yes. Split sabbaticals are allowed, and the application form makes provision for them.

Yes, you can request a change to your sabbatical, provided: (a) you make the request before the sabbatical begins, (b) your chair and dean approve the change to ensure it still aligns with instructional needs, AND (c) you understand that approvals to requested changes are never automatic.

Here is what you need to do under various scenarios:

(1) You make a change to your original approved plan, but the sabbatical will still take place in the same academic year (example: shifting from one semester to another). These requests can usually be handled by sending an email to with notes from your chair and dean approving the change. Note the need to request the change before the original sabbatical would start! Planning ahead will help your chances.

(2) You wish to move some/all of your sabbatical to a future academic year. Sabbaticals cannot be “postponed” or “deferred”. Moving any part of a sabbatical to a future academic year requires a formal withdrawal and reapplication to ensure the change aligns with your school’s instructional needs.

Feel free to consult our office on how changes to sabbatical plans would affect your eligibility for future leaves.

IU will continue full life and medical coverage in the case of an academic-year sabbatical leave at half-pay, or a one-semester sabbatical at full-pay.

Deductions for the appointee’s share of the medical insurance premiums from monthly payroll checks will be continued during the leave.

During a semester or academic-year sabbatical leave, however, IU retirement plan contributions will be made based on the actual salary paid. Therefore, if you take a sabbatical leave at half-pay, contributions will be made based on the half salary. You may, with some restrictions, make additional voluntary contributions to your retirement plan.

Consult University Human Resources for details.

Yes, but your total compensation may not exceed what your regular salary would have been had you not taken a sabbatical.

Yes, but because the focus of your sabbatical is supposed to be research or creative activity, there are strict rules governing teaching.

To supplement your half-salary in this way, you will need to seek permission and an exception to the general rule prohibiting teaching during a sabbatical leave. If you find that you are in this position, you must submit a written request for an exception.

The request must explain how your prospects for a productive sabbatical leave will be enhanced and the specific nature and extent of the teaching you propose. Your chairperson and dean must agree and recommend the exception to our office.

Note: Under no circumstances can supplemental income (through teaching and other sources) exceed what your regular salary would have been that year without the sabbatical.

Sorry, but no. The best option at this point is that you can request to defer the second semester of your sabbatical until a time when half salary will be less of a financial hardship.

If you are contemplating an academic-year sabbatical without supplementary external funds, be sure that you have the ability to afford a year at half your normal salary. This is one of the instances when viewing the sabbatical as an entitlement can cause a person trouble.

IU sees your sabbatical as a mutually beneficial investment in your career development, not as an entitlement. It is an agreement between you and the university, and IU expects you to live up to your end of the bargain.

No, for a couple of reasons.

First, as a fundamental matter, that type of plan is at odds with the purpose of the sabbatical leave program, which is intended to develop your career at IU and also, as a result, benefit the university.

More concretely, though, if you do not return to IU for at least one year immediately following your sabbatical, you will have to reimburse the university for the salary and fringe benefits it paid you during your sabbatical.

The very last sentence of the application form, placed right above the signature line and italicized for emphasis, says: “In the event I do not return for at least one year immediately following the sabbatical leave, I agree to reimburse Indiana University for any salary, retirement contributions, and insurance premiums paid during the sabbatical leave.” The Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence will not approve your application without your signature, which creates a legally binding contract to this effect.

“Immediately following the sabbatical leave” means that a promise to return someday as a visiting faculty member does not fulfill this requirement.

No. You must return for at least one year immediately following your sabbatical or you will be required to reimburse the university for the salary and benefits it paid you during your sabbatical. Your signature on the sabbatical application creates a binding obligation for you to do so.

You will have to return to full-time service as a faculty member for two semesters, so the latest you can take a one-semester sabbatical is the third semester before you retire.

The latest you can begin an academic-year sabbatical is in the fourth semester before retirement.

If you will be eligible for both retirement and a sabbatical within the next five years, we encourage you to begin your planning now so that you can meet this requirement.

You need to file the Report on Completion of Sabbatical Leave with our office.

Technically, you are supposed to file this report within three months of completing your sabbatical. However, we are aware that faculty members lead busy lives and sometimes fail to meet that deadline or forget to file the report altogether. We approach late reports with leniency.

Note, though, that our indulgence of late or missing reports is limited by campus and university policy. You must file a report in order to be eligible for a subsequent sabbatical. The Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence cannot consider your application unless and until your report for your prior sabbatical is completed and submitted.

It is not possible to offer credit toward a sabbatical to an untenured faculty member as they must earn tenure first before earning a sabbatical. For post-tenure and more senior academic positions, credit toward a sabbatical may be possible. 

If you are contemplating an offer that might include credit toward sabbatical, be sure to talk to one of our associate vice provosts about it. Note that the negotiations should be completed by the time of initial appointment.

Contact Judah Cohen, the associate vice provost who chairs the Committee on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence and administers the sabbatical leaves program.

He may be reached at or by calling our office at 812-855-2809.

Alternative accessible formats of the PDF documents on this page can be obtained by contacting VPFAA at