Statement of Principles on Leaves of Absence

The statement that follows, prepared by a special committee of the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities), was adopted by the Association of American Colleges at its annual meeting in January 1972. In May 1972, it was adopted by the Council of the American Association of University Professors and endorsed by the Fifty-eighth Annual Meeting.

The statement, designed to emphasize the value of leaves of absence and to give guidance to institutions in making or improving provisions for them, offers what the two associations believe to be sound standards for flexible and effective leave programs. Though limited financial resources at an individual institution may delay the immediate establishment of an ideal leave policy, careful consideration should be given to possible steps toward the early development of such a policy.

The governing bodies of the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors, acting respectively in January and April 1990, adopted several changes in language in order to remove gender-specific references from the original text.


Leaves of absence are among the most important means by which the teaching effectiveness of faculty members may be enhanced, their scholarly usefulness enlarged, and an institution’s academic program strengthened and developed. A sound program of leaves is therefore of vital importance to a college or university, and it is the obligation of faculty members to make use of available means, including leaves, to promote their professional competence. The major purpose is to provide opportunity for continued professional growth and new, or renewed, intellectual achievement through study, research, writing, and travel. Leaves may also be provided in appropriate circumstances for projects of direct benefit to the institution and for public or private service outside the institution.1 Leaves should also be granted for illness, recovery of health, and maternity.

Development of Leave Policies

Leave policies and procedures should be developed with full faculty participation. Faculty members, acting through appropriate representatives, should also have a key role in the selection of the recipients of individual leaves. The institution and the individual faculty member have a common responsibility for endeavoring to achieve the objective of the leave program—the institution by establishing an effective program, the faculty member by making appropriate use of it. Leave policies should be flexible enough to meet the needs of both the individual and the institution.

Eligibility and Procedures

The purpose of a leave program is to promote the professional development of all faculty members—those who are likely to stay at the institution for a long period but also, although not necessarily to the same degree, those for whom there is no such assurance.

Previous service and leaves at other institutions should be taken into consideration in determining eligibility for leave. Persons nearing retirement should be eligible for leave with pay if it is clear that the leave will achieve its purposes both for the individual and for the institution.

For a nontenured faculty member on scholarly leave for one year or less, the period of leave should count as part of the probationary period as if it were prior service at another institution.2  Exceptions to this policy should be mutually agreed to in writing prior to the leave.

Faculty members should apply for a leave at a reasonable time in advance and through established procedures, so that the institution can more readily care for their work in their absence and so that they can plan to make the best use of the opportunity. All evidence that the leave will increase individual effectiveness or produce academically or socially useful results should be considered in evaluating applications. A leave may either involve specialized scholarly activity or be designed to provide broad cultural experience and enlarged perspective. Administrators and faculty agencies concerned with implementation of leave policies may reasonably require faculty members to submit such advance plans as are likely to ensure productive results.

Individual and Institutional Obligations

Faculty members have an obligation to return for further service following a leave of absence when the circumstances of granting the leave indicate that this is the equitable action, as is often the case when a leave with pay is granted. A faculty member should of course honor an agreement to return to the institution, unless other arrangements are mutually agreed upon. The precise terms of the leave of absence should be in writing and should be given to the faculty member prior to the commencement of the leave.

Even when there is no obligation to return, the faculty member who resigns while on leave should give notice according to accepted standards. Moreover, a college or university should not knowingly invite a person to join its staff at a time when the individual cannot properly accept the invitation. In most instances, an institution that invites a faculty member to accept a new appointment while on leave should feel obligated to pay at least a portion of the cost of the leave.

Frequency and Duration of Leaves

Leaves should not be considered as deferred compensation to which a faculty member is entitled no matter what other opportunities the faculty member may have had for professional development. They should, however, be provided with reasonable frequency and preferably be available at regular intervals, because they are important to the continuing growth of the faculty member and the effectiveness of the institution.

Ordinarily, leaves of absence, whatever the source of funding, should not be more than one year in length, but exceptions to this rule should be possible in cases involving health, public service, overseas appointments, or other special circumstances.

Financial Arrangements

Leaves of one semester at full salary or an academic year at half salary are commonly provided. The institution is not obliged to assume the financial burden of all types of leaves. It does have the obligation, however, to use its own leave funds in such a manner as to balance the opportunity for professional development among and within academic fields.

Whatever the source of funding, the amount paid to the faculty member on leave should not depend on the cost of caring for the person’s work in his or her absence, nor should a leave of absence of a year or less interfere with the opportunity for promotion or increase in salary.

Continuous coverage under various types of insurance programs should be provided while a faculty member is on leave. When the faculty member is on leave with pay, both the institution and the individual should continue contributions toward that person’s retirement annuity. If a faculty member, on leave without pay, takes a temporary but full-time appointment at another institution or organization, it is reasonable to expect the appointing institution or organization to assume the cost of institutional contributions to the individual’s retirement annuity and group-insurance programs.

Foundations, government agencies, and other organizations supporting leaves for scholarly purposes should include in their grants an amount sufficient to maintain institutional annuity and group-insurance contributions as well as salaries.


1. Leave for the purpose of engaging in political activity is discussed in the “Statement on Professors and Political Activity,” AAUP, Policy Documents and Reports, 10th ed. (Washington, D.C., 2006), 33–34. Back to text

2. Credit for prior service toward fulfillment of the probationary period is discussed in the 1940 “Statement​ of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,"  Policy Documents and Reports, 4. See the section on
“Academic Tenure,” paragraph 2. Back to text