Personal Time Off, Leaves of Absence and Withdrawal

Faculty of Medicine Guidelines on Graduate Student Personal Time Off

From the Office of the Vice Dean, Graduate and Life Science Education (Adapted from the Institute of Medical Science guidelines on time off for students.)

Within the Faculty of Medicine, it is recognized that many graduate students conduct their research almost exclusively within a laboratory setting, where they may or may not have control over their hours and the flow of the research program. Students are not employees and therefore have no rights to employee benefits, including paid vacation entitlement. However, it is recognized that in order for a graduate student to reach their full potential and achieve academic excellence and maintain a healthy work life balance, they benefit from some personal time off or ‘vacation’. There are SGS policies and procedures in place for students who require a leave of absence for parental, personal or medical reasons. However, there are no University or SGS policies regarding graduate student personal time off / ‘vacation’. The following guidelines for faculty and graduate students provide a framework for reasonable expectations. As a general rule, students might reasonably expect up to three weeks (15 working days) per year in personal time off, plus statutory holidays, under the following conditions:

  • Time off provisions should be negotiated, in a clear and transparent manner, between the supervisor and the graduate student.
  • Time off should not compromise the research program and/or the student’s graduate studies. Students must ensure that laboratory work, experimentation and other time sensitive activities are either completed, or arrangements made for others to continue ongoing work.
  • Consideration should be given to when the building or lab is closed (i.e. winter holidays) when taking time off.
  • Time sensitive deadlines (i.e. award applications, abstract submissions) must be taken into consideration.
  • Time off cannot be carried forward from year to year.
  • Time off should be requested as far in advance as possible.
  • The student and supervisor should be able to maintain contact as appropriate if the student is away for an extended period.
  • Given that students receive remuneration as a stipend, not salary, the stipend continues, unaffected by this personal time off.
  • Attendance at social activities within the academic community (departmental picnic etc.) or scientific meetings does not fall under the category of personal time off.

Sick leaves or absences for health reasons must be documented and do not fall under category of personal time off.

Leave of Absence

Graduate students may experience a temporary or permanent interruption during the course of their studies. In a situation where it may be necessary to take time out from the graduate program the students should make an appointment to see the Graduate Coordinator as soon as possible. An official leave of absence is not included in the time limit for completion of the degree and a student is exempt from paying fees for the duration of the leave.

A student may apply to the Graduate Coordinator for a one-session to three-session leave during the program of study for the following reasons:

  • Serious health or personal problems which temporarily make it impossible to continue in the program, or
  • Parental leave by either parent at the time of pregnancy, birth or adoption, and/or to provide full-time care during the child’s first year. Parental leave must be completed within twelve months of the date of birth or custody. Where both parents are graduate students taking leave, the combined total number of sessions may not exceed four sessions. Students should consult with their supervisors on this point, as some funding agencies have provisions to allow for paid parental leave.

Leaves should coincide with the start and end of a session. A leave must therefore begin on the first day of term, for a period of four, eight or twelve months. The degree time limit will be extended by the number of sessions that the student is on leave. If it is necessary for a leave to begin in mid-session, it is necessary to contact the Director of Student Services at the School of Graduate Studies to make special arrangements.

While on leave, students are temporarily withdrawn from the graduate program and do not pay fees for the leave period. Please consult the Fees section of the SGS web site for more information on fees for students on a Leave of Absence. If a student returns from leave and is immediately ready to defend the thesis, fees are charged for the session(s) in which the student was on leave.

During a leave, a student may not make demands on the resources of the University, such as using library facilities, attending courses or expecting advice from a supervisor/supervisory committee. Research Reader privileges are available at the library for a fee, and a student may make individual arrangements to consult with faculty and supervisors. Students have the option to of opting into receiving access to Student Life, Hart House and Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education services for a fee.

Students are not eligible for graduate awards during a leave. Note that award granting agencies, such as CIHR and NSERC, have their own policies on leaves for award holders. Students must consult with the appropriate funding agency.

If a student requires a leave, it is necessary to complete the Request for Leave of Absence form available on the SGS website and to submit it to the Graduate Coordinator for consideration.

Termination of Enrolment

A student’s enrolment in the program may be terminated without obtaining a degree under the following circumstances:

  1. Failure to achieve the goals set by the supervisory committee within a reasonable period of time (see “Lack of Sufficient Progress” on pg. 19); and upon unanimous decision by the Supervisory Committee.
  2. Failing any course in the program
  3. Two negative votes at a Reclassification exam, M.Sc. Oral exam. Ph.D. Qualification or Ph.D. Oral exam.

The student’s stipend will be terminated upon termination of enrolment.

Lapsed Candidacy

Students must be registered annually until all degree requirements are met. Students who fail to register and do not have an approved leave may only apply to re-register if they are within the maximum time allowed for the degree program. Students wishing to re-register must apply to the Department of Molecular Genetics. The Department and the School of Graduate Studies must approve the reinstatement. Reinstated students will be required to pay fees owing for any sessions in which they did not register.