Applying for sabbatical leave or dispensation from teaching duties

The Faculty is committed to enabling colleagues to take the sabbatical leave (statutory professors, and Associate Professors where the University is the main or sole employer); or dispensation from lecturing obligations (for Associate Professors where the college is the main employer) to which they are entitled.  It is important to take a break from teaching and administration from time to time, in order to concentrate more fully on your research. This page explains the procedure for applying (which is the same for everyone) and the rules on entitlement (which vary according to the type of post you hold).

What are the practical implications of taking leave or dispensation?

The main effect of taking leave or dispensation is to reduce your Faculty teaching stint obligation for the year. For these purposes we use the figure for your stint without including graduate supervision (because you are expected to continue with this - see below). 

Statutory professors, AP(TF-U)s and AP(NTF)s may take sabbatical leave for one term (reducing stint by one-third), two terms (reducing stint by two-thirds), or a year (reducing your stint to zero).

AP(TF-C)s may either take what is known as a ‘full dispensation’, which reduces your Faculty teaching stint for the year to zero, or a ‘partial dispensation’, which reduces your Faculty teaching stint for the year by half.

We will assume that you will not attend meetings of Law Board or any other Faculty committee of which you are a member during any term in which you are taking leave or a dispensation and there is no need to send your apologies on each occasion. If you have a Faculty officer role, you should discuss with the Dean how this might be covered.

However, there are two important points to note, both of which are rules of the university rather than the Faculty:

  • you are still obliged to mark exam scripts while you are on leave if any are assigned to you. In practice, the Faculty will seek to avoid putting you on exam boards and to reduce your marking load where possible, but we cannot guarantee that you will not have any scripts to mark.
  • you are expected to continue to supervise your D.Phil. students unless you make alternative arrangements for them. This must be done formally through a change of supervisor form and recorded on the research student reporting system, GSS. You may need to do this if you intend to spend long periods of time away from Oxford during your leave. If you are in the small group of people who fulfil a high proportion of their stint through supervision, please discuss with the Vice Dean how to manage the process so that you can take your sabbatical effectively.  

After your leave, you will be contacted by the Division and asked to provide a report on your research and other activities. This report is sent to the Law Board for approval. The norm is one or two sides of A4 outlining the research you have undertaken, any visits made or talks given, and publications. There is no template or form for the report. You will also be asked to confirm that you are not better off financially as a result of having taken leave. If you are planning to undertake paid work during your leave (e.g. a visiting professorship at another university) please read the university Regulations carefully on this point.

Application process

How do I check my entitlement?

To check your sabbatical entitlement, please contact the HR team in the Social Sciences Divisional Office:-

How do I apply?

If you wish to apply for sabbatical leave, please fill in this application form and send it to the Personnel Officer, who will ensure that it is passed on to the Vice Dean for approval. (The form indicates that it should be signed by the Dean/Head of Department, but in the Law Faculty, sabbatical leave is dealt with by the Vice Dean.) 

The form does not provide space to explain how your Faculty teaching will be covered during your leave, so please include some detail on this in an email accompanying the form.

Options include:

  • asking a colleague or colleagues to cover your teaching. This can work well as a reciprocal arrangement. However, no-one should be expected to exceed their stint by a large margin in order to cover someone else’s leave.
  • asking a suitable person who does not have a teaching stint (e.g. a postdoc, a college JRF, someone from another university) to cover your teaching. You should use the Additional Teaching form to seek the Vice Dean’s approval for this type of arrangement so that the Faculty can pay the person appropriately for their time. Please remember that for a BCL/M.Jur. or FHS option to run, there must be two postholders available and responsible for the course. Please speak to the Associate Dean (Taught Graduates) or the Associate Dean (Undergraduates) if you are unsure about this. 
  • not providing the teaching in question. For example, FHS or BCL/M.Jur. options can be suspended for a year if we do not have the resources to offer them. Please notify the subject group convenor and the relevant Associate Dean if that is your intention, and confirm in your email that you have done so. For core Mods/FHS options, we make clear to students that the availability of particular lecturers and lecture courses may vary from year to year. However, if it becomes clear that a number of people in the same subject group are planning to take leave at the same time, it may be advisable for the convenor to have a discussion with the Associate Dean (Undergraduates) and Vice Dean about ways of ensuring that there is adequate lecture provision for a particular course. Again, please notify the convenor of your sabbatical plans and confirm in your email to the Vice Dean that you have done so, to enable this discussion to take place.

We appreciate that it may seem burdensome to have to think about cover yourself. However, the Vice Dean is unlikely to have the expertise to know what exactly needs to be covered and who could do it, and we need your help to put the most appropriate arrangements in place.   


Statutory Professors

Statutory Professors are entitled to take one term of sabbatical leave for every six terms of qualifying service. In general, the maximum amount of leave you can accumulate or take is one year. Please refer to the Regulations for further detail.


APs where the university is the sole or majority employer are entitled to take one term of sabbatical leave for every six terms of qualifying service. In general, the maximum amount of leave you can accumulate or take is one year. Please refer to the Regulations for further detail.

AP(TF-U)s normally accrue college sabbatical leave on the same terms as university leave and would be expected to take the two types of leave at the same time.


APs where the college is the majority employer apply to the university not for sabbatical but for ‘dispensation from a course of lectures’. Council Regulation 4 of 2004 provides:

“16. A CUF or special (non-CUF) lecturer who is granted leave by his or her college for one or more terms in any academic year may apply to the relevant divisional board for partial or complete dispensation from prescribed duties for that year, i.e. dispensation from one or both of the courses of eight lectures or classes which he or she is contractually obliged to give.

17. No CUF or special (non-CUF) lecturer shall be dispensed from more than four courses of lectures or classes in any period of fourteen years, or more than two courses in any period of three years.

18. CUF or special (non-CUF) lecturers are normally expected to deliver at least one subsequent course of lectures or classes in respect of each case of dispensation from a course of lectures or classes, before resignation or retirement.”

Most colleges offer one term of leave for every six terms worked (though you should check the position in your own college) so these rules make sense if you work for six years, accumulate a full year of college sabbatical, and take two ‘dispensations’, giving you a full year of leave from both college and university teaching duties. You would be able to take a full year of leave in years 7 and 14 of any 14-year period. But this might not always suit your needs.  

Some points to bear in mind:

  • if you decide to take college leave one term at a time, as you become entitled to it, please remember that you will normally accrue six terms of college leave in any fourteen-year period but can only request four ‘dispensations’. If you take a dispensation each time you take college leave, you will run out of dispensations, so you need to think carefully about when it is in your best interests to take a dispensation alongside your college leave. Usually this will be when you intend to spend the leave at another institution, or to do lots of travelling, because of course it is harder to go away if you still have Faculty teaching and other commitments.
  • if you take two dispensations, your stint on the Teaching Returns database will be reduced to zero and we will treat you as taking a full year of leave for administrative purposes (e.g. attending Faculty committees). If you take one dispensation, your stint on the Teaching Returns database will be reduced by half and you will need to tell us for administrative purposes in which one and a half terms you regard yourself as being ‘on leave’. Please discuss with the Vice Dean if you are not sure how best to manage this.
  • the Division applies the 14-year rule by looking backwards from the term in which you are requesting a dispensation, so if you save up your four dispensations and take them towards the end of your first 14 years in post (subject to the three-year rule), remember that this will have an effect on when you can next take a dispensation.
  • if you do not take your dispensations, you will lose them. The Division does not allow you to say that you didn’t take all four of your dispensations in your first 14 years, so you should be allowed to take them later on.