Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sabbaticals are undervalued

Take one if you can.

A great privilege and opportunity of having a tenured faculty position is the possibility at most institutions of taking a sabbatical. Roughly one year away for every six years of service or one semester away every seventh semester.

I am concerned that increasingly many faculty don't take sabbaticals and that some institutions or departments (at least in Australia) discourage them. I think they are particularly important for Australians because of our geographic isolation. [For some strange reason at UQ it is called a Special Studies Program].

There are many obstacles to taking sabbaticals: finance, family commitments, keeping a group running, inertia, .... For some US faculty they also have to come up with some of the salary....

I have actually only ever taken one sabbatical (Oxford in 2004). However, for the past 12 years I have had few teaching and admin. responsibilities and have had freedom to travel. I am actually in the process of applying for one for the second half of 2016. As part of the process I had to recycle the report I wrote at the end of the last one about my activities and how I and the university benefited. I recalled that it was a productive time that lead to new ideas and collaborations. But, only reading the report did I recall just how great the benefits were. Much of what happened in the following five years or so would not have been possible without things that happened on the sabbatical.

So take one! Encourage your colleagues to as well! I think they are especially important for people weighed down with heavy teaching and/or admin responsibilities.

Are sabbaticals becoming less common? Why? Have you benefitted from one or more?

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