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Leave of Absence

Ph.D. students may request a leave of absence when certain life events prevent continued active participation in their degree program. Rackham’s Leave of Absence Policy enables students to officially suspend work toward their degree for a limited time.

Students may request a leave of absence as early as six months prior to the term the leave is to start. A leave will be granted to students for illness (either physical or mental) or injury, to enable them to provide care or assistance for family or dependents, to allow them to meet military service obligations, or for other personal reasons.

Resources such as a flow chart of the leave of absence process, a checklist for Ph.D. students, a checklist for faculty and staff as well as the Leave of Absence Policy are available. They provide guidance and information about how the process supports academic planning and protects students’ privacy.

Request a Leave of Absence

Contents

Overview

Ph.D. students who are on a leave of absence (LOA) suspend their active study for a term or more during which they do not make progress toward their degree. An approved LOA substitutes for the registration requirement for Ph.D. students. When possible, students and faculty should explore alternatives to an LOA, so that students can remain registered and make progress toward the degree, even if at a slower pace.

Students are expected to return from a leave of absence. Students do not need to be re-admitted and they are not charged a fee to return to active student status. Students who have unused terms of funding from prior University commitments will have these commitments available when they return.

Four Types of Leaves of Absence
Medical Reasons Family Necessity or Dependent Care Military Service Personal Reasons
Maximum Time 2 years 2 years Duration of military service 1 term
Required Documentation Recommendation by a licensed health professional Basic information about the family member or dependent Induction or authorization for active duty None
Other Information If the absence exceeds 2 years, the student should discontinue and apply for reinstatement when they are able to return to active study. If the absence exceeds 2 years, the student should discontinue and apply for reinstatement when they are able to return to active study. None Students are eligible for a leave of absence for personal reasons only once in their Ph.D. career. They must request this type of leave before the drop/add period in a fall or winter term.

Download the summary chart PDF comparing the four types of leave.

A full description of the types of leave is included in the Leave of Absence Policy. Students who meet the criteria will be approved for a leave of absence. The benefit of the doubt is given to a student who wishes to take time away, most requests for a leave of absence are approved.

Alternatives to a Leave of Absence

Students should remain registered in their Ph.D. program even when they encounter challenges like loss of funding or an advisor; the program is responsible for helping students in these circumstances to remain registered and to make academic progress.

Students considering a leave of absence should work with their graduate programs to determine if it is possible to modify program expectations by reducing coursework, research, teaching or other educational responsibilities; working at a slower pace; delaying milestone deadlines; or taking incompletes in the current term with a plan to address them. Alternatives may include parental accommodation and within-semester medical accommodation.

Parental Accommodation Policy

Rackham’s Parental Accommodation Policy is available to students if the student or the student’s spouse or partner has given birth or adopted a child under the age of 6. A comparison chart between the Parental Accommodation Policy and a leave of absence for dependent care is available to help students decide which option best fits their circumstances.

Within-Semester Medical Accommodation Policy

Rackham’s Within-Semester Medical Accommodation Policy is available if a student has a brief illness or other health-related difficulties during the term. The student should expect that faculty will make reasonable accommodations for course-related work and other academic deadlines during this time.

Process to Request a Leave of Absence

Checklists, a flow chart, and step-by-step instructions for using the Leave of Absence system are available to help navigate the leave of absence process.

The graduate program must be involved in the planning process. Students are required to meet with the chair or director of their graduate program to plan for a leave of absence. The student and the graduate program chair or director should discuss possible alternatives to a leave of absence.

Once a student decides that he or she needs to take a leave and has discussed the leave with his or her graduate program, the student submits a request for a leave in the Leave of Absence system, providing basic information about the dates of the leave as well as the type of leave.

Supplemental information is required for leaves of absence for medical reasons, military service and family necessity/dependent care.

Required Supplemental Information
Medical Reasons Family Necessity/Dependent Care Military Service Personal Reasons
The student’s licensed health care provider must complete a supplemental form and submit it to the Rackham Leave of Absence Coordinator. The student must provide basic information about his or her family member and a brief explanation of the need for the leave. The student must provide the expected dates of military service and upload a copy of his or her military induction documents/active duty authorization. Students do not need to provide supplemental information for a leave of absence for personal reasons.

Once a student has submitted a request for a leave of absence, he or she will be prompted on what supplemental information is needed. Supplemental information is submitted directly to Rackham. Graduate program faculty and staff only have access to the basic information in the initial online request, not the supplemental information. A leave of absence creates an opportunity to outline the clear expectations for a student and consequences for not fulfilling those expectations in the re-entry plan.

The student, the graduate chair or director, and the graduate coordinator will receive an e-mail once the decision on the request has been made.

Note for Students with F-1 or J-1 Visas

A recommendation from the International Center is required to process a leave of absence request for students with F-1 or J-1 visas. Students with a U-M issued F-1 or J-1 visa must contact a counselor at the International Center to determine how immigration regulations may impact their ability to take a leave of absence.

Roles and Responsibilities

Student

A request for a leave of absence is initiated by the graduate student.

The student should first consult with the graduate coordinator, graduate chair or program director or faculty advisor, before initiating a leave of absence request. This step is crucial, as graduate program faculty and staff may be able to help students remain registered, when appropriate, and potentially identify resources to help support the student. The student should create a tentative re-entry plan with his or her graduate chair or program director. (Students are not required to share detailed or sensitive information with their graduate program community about the need for a leave.)

Students on a U-M issued F-1 or J-1 visa must meet with the International Center so that an International Center advisor can provide Rackham with visa information related to the student’s request for a leave.

The student must provide the necessary supplemental documentation.

The student is responsible for understanding the implications of taking a leave of absence. This may require the student to contact various campus units to understand how a leave may affect him or her.

Graduate Chair or Program Director

The graduate chair or program director is responsible for making a recommendation to Rackham on the student’s request for a leave of absence on behalf of the graduate program. Students are required to talk with the graduate chair or director for their program to plan for a leave of absence. This conversation can take place in a face-to-face meeting, over the phone, or over e-mail. Talking points for the graduate chair are available to help guide the conversation. The graduate chair or director discusses the leave of absence with the student and explores alternatives to a leave.

If a leave is needed, the chair or director should create a tentative re-entry plan with the student. In some cases, it may be appropriate to consult with the student’s faculty advisor to create the tentative re-entry plan. The purpose of a re-entry plan is to provide a record of the student’s progress in the graduate program, remaining funding commitment, as well as a clear understanding about next academic steps once the student returns from the leave of absence. This document can be helpful if there is a change in graduate program leadership while a student is on a leave of absence. An example of a tentative re-entry plan is available. Rackham does not collect a copy of the re-entry plan, but rather a copy should be kept in the student’s file in the graduate program.

Once prompted by the LOA online system, the graduate chair or director will login and record his or her recommendation on the student’s request. Step-by-step instructions for using the Leave of Absence system are available to programs to help navigate the leave of absence process.

Faculty Advisor

The faculty advisor may provide information to the graduate chair or program director about the student’s request for an LOA. The faculty advisor may also be involved in creating the student’s tentative re-entry plan. Although the initial leave of absence discussion may begin with the faculty advisor, the formal program recommendation must come from the graduate chair or director.

Graduate Coordinator

The student services staff in a student’s graduate program should be involved in a student’s request for a leave of absence. The graduate coordinator can connect the student to the graduate chair or director. The graduate coordinator can also help the student navigate resources and direct students to Rackham staff members to consult, when appropriate.

Rackham Deans

The deans of the Rackham Graduate School or designee, approve or deny requests in accordance with the Leave of Absence Policy. A Rackham dean or designee, reviews the recommendation provided by the graduate chair or director, and the International Center (if applicable), and reviews any necessary supplemental documentation for the request. Decisions are usually made within two days of receiving the recommendation from the student’s graduate program.

Leave of Absence Timing and Limits

Students are not eligible to request a leave of absence until they have completed one term of study in their Ph.D. program. A newly admitted student who has registered may seek an admissions deferral, rather than a leave of absence, if the request and approval occur before the end of the third week of classes in the initial term of the doctoral program. If the request is made and approved after the end of the third week of classes in the initial term of the doctoral program, the student is discontinued and can apply for reinstatement.

Students may request a leave of absence for medical reasons, family necessity or dependent care for up to two consecutive fall or winter terms, or 12 consecutive months. An extension may be requested for up to an additional 12 months. The maximum period that a student can be on a consecutive leave, regardless of type, is 24 months or 4 consecutive fall and winter terms.

A leave of absence for military service may be requested for the duration of the military service obligation.

Students may request a one-term, non-renewable leave of absence for personal reasons.

Leave of Absence in the Middle of a Term and Term Withdrawal

Prior to requesting a leave of absence in the middle of a term, students are encouraged to explore options with their graduate program to remain registered for the current term. If it is not possible for students to remain registered, students may request to begin a leave of absence in the middle of a term.

In order to begin a leave of absence in the middle of a term, students will need to withdraw from their courses for the term. Withdrawing from a term may have implications on a student’s visa status, tuition payments, loans, fellowships, employment and benefits. More information about the implications of withdrawing from a term is available on the Term Withdrawal Checklist.

If a student withdraws from classes after the term has started, there are student registration deadlines that determine what tuition payments, if any, can be refunded.

When students appointed as GSIs, GSSAs, or GSRAs withdraw from a term, their appointment will be terminated as of the withdrawal date, and the remaining salary and insurance benefits associated with the appointment are cancelled. In addition, the tuition waiver is removed from the student account, and the student will be responsible for the assessed tuition.

While on a Leave of Absence

University Services Available While on a Leave of Absence

Students on a leave of absence are not working toward their degree, so they do not register. Students on a leave will have access to basic services to remain connected to their program, including library access and e-mail privileges. Some services are not available while a student is on a leave or only available if the student pays for access. For more information on access to academic services, student loans, e-mail and computing privileges, please see Guidelines for Access to Support Services for Rackham Ph.D. Students.

Students on a leave of absence for any reason may be eligible to purchase an extension of existing health insurance coverage at personal expense. Students on a leave of absence for medical reasons may be eligible for university-funded health insurance. More options may be available to students. For advice about what insurance options may be available for a student's individual circumstance, please contact the Managed Care/Student Insurance Office at University Health Service (UHS) at (734) 764-5182.

What Type of Academic Work Can Be Done During a Leave

Students should return from a leave of absence with the same academic standing. Students on a leave of absence do not make progress toward their degree. While students on a leave of absence are able to complete coursework from previous terms (e.g., Incomplete grades), a leave of absence should not be used to provide time for a student to catch up (e.g. return to good academic standing, study for exams, preparing for candidacy, writing).

Returning from a Leave of Absence

Expectation to Return

Students who are approved for a leave of absence are expected to return to active study.

In most cases, Rackham expects that graduate chairs or directors will recommend a student’s return from a leave of absence, even if a different chair or director was involved with the initial request for a leave. If a student requests to return earlier than originally planned, and there are not adequate resources available to support the student, Rackham will have a conversation with the chair or director to identify ways to support the student’s return.

Why Do Students Have to Request to Return?

Students on a leave of absence for personal reasons will automatically be returned at the start of the next fall or winter term following their leave. Rackham does not require graduate programs to endorse a student’s return from a leave of absence for personal reasons, as this type of leave is limited to one term in a student’s doctoral career. However, we encourage students and graduate program faculty to work together to smoothly transition the student back from the leave of absence.

Students on all other types of leave of absence must request to return from their leave of absence via the Rackham Leave of Absence online system. A request to return indicates to the student’s program and to Rackham that the student is ready to return to active study. This action triggers changes in the student’s record, including active student status as well as enabling the student to register for the coming term. Students will not be eligible to register until they have requested to return from their leave of absence.

Process to Return from a Leave of Absence (RLOA)

Checklists, a flow chart, and step-by-step instructions for using the Leave of Absence system are available to help navigate the leave of absence process. Students on a leave of absence should contact their graduate program at least 6 weeks prior to the start of the term they are scheduled to return. Some graduate programs may have additional guidelines about when students need to inform their graduate program about their intent to return. Students should revise or finalize their re-entry plan with their graduate chair or director prior to requesting to return from their leave of absence.

Students with a U-M issued F-1 or J-1 visa should follow the International Center’s recommended timing to obtain a visa, if applicable.

To allow for processing of the request to return to active study, students should request to return in the Rackham Leave of Absence system no later than 3 weeks prior to the start of the term they are scheduled to return. Students should register prior to the start of the next fall or winter term in order to avoid a late registration fee. Below are the options available to students in the Rackham Leave of Absence online system:

Process to Return from a Leave of Absence (RLOA)
Required Supplemental Information Action
Return from a Leave As Scheduled Students returning from a leave of absence for medical reasons must provide supplemental documentation from their health care provider to support their return from a leave. No additional documentation is required to return from any other type of leave of absence. Request to Return from Your Leave of Absence
To Return Early from a Leave Students who wish to return to active study in an earlier term than originally approved may request to return early from their leave. Students will be conditionally approved for the new return date. Once the student is ready to return to active study, he or she must make a request to return from the leave of absence. Return Early From Your Leave of Absence

Extending a Leave or Requesting a New Leave

Students not ready to return to active study in the term originally requested may request another type of leave of absence or extend their current leave, if eligible.

Required Supplemental Information
Military Service Medical Reasons Family Necessity or Dependent Care Personal Reasons
Requires military induction or authorization papers. Requires the student’s health care provider to complete supplemental documentation. Requires basic information about the student’s family member and a brief explanation of the need. No documentation is required. Only available for one term in a student’s doctoral career.

Amend or Extend a Current Leave of Absence

Discontinuing from a Doctoral Program

Students who are not ready to return to active Ph.D. study can choose to discontinue from their Ph.D. program. Students should contact their graduate chair or director to notify him or her of their intent to discontinue. All funding commitments to a Ph.D. student expire when a student is discontinued. Students may apply for reinstatement into their Ph.D. program when they are ready to return to active graduate study.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I request a leave of absence?

Students are able to request a leave of absence via Rackham’s Leave of Absence system as early as six months prior to the term the leave is to start. To begin a request for a leave of absence, visit the Rackham Leave of Absence system.

Can I request a leave for more than one term at a time?

Students may request a leave of absence for medical reasons, family necessity or dependent care for up to two consecutive fall or winter terms, or 12 consecutive months. An extension may be requested for up to an additional 12 months. The maximum period that a student can be on a consecutive leave, regardless of type, is 24 months or 4 consecutive fall and winter terms.

Students may request a leave of absence for military service for the duration of their military service obligation.

Students may request an academic term (fall or winter) of a leave of absence for personal reasons, limited to one academic term during their doctoral career. Because a leave of absence is not required for the spring/summer semester, a student can take a total of eight months away from active study.

Can I request a leave of absence if I am planning on doing an internship?

Ph.D. students should be registered during each fall or winter semester of an internship, even when the internship is not a requirement of the graduate program. An internship endorsed by the graduate program could be directly or indirectly contributing to the student’s research experiences or professional development.

Should I be on a leave during Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Students who are participating in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) should be registered during each fall or winter semester of the training. More information about OPT and CPT is available on the International Center’s website.

What is the last date I can apply for a LOA?

All Ph.D. students should have an official status (Registered, Leave of Absence or Extramural Study Status) with the University by the drop/add deadline (end of the third week of classes). Prior to requesting a leave of absence in the middle of a term, students are encouraged to explore options with their graduate program to remain registered for the current term. Under certain circumstances, a student may need to request a leave of absence in the middle of a term.

Please note, a leave of absence for personal reasons should be requested prior to the first day of classes.

Can I come back early from a leave?

If a student would like to return to active study earlier than originally anticipated, the student will need to contact his or her graduate coordinator or graduate program chair to discuss available options. Once the student and his or her graduate program chair have agreed to a revised return date, the student will request to return early in the Leave of Absence system.

Why would I want to return May 1 rather than September 1?

Students who are planning to make progress toward their degree over during the spring/summer term should indicate an intent to return on May 1. Effective Spring/Summer 2011, Ph.D. students have access to University services and resources over the summer, although registration is not required. These services are only available for students who are making active progress toward their degree.

Downloads

For Students

For Graduate Programs

Contact

If you have questions, please contact Rackham’s Leave of Absence Coordinator, Ida Faye Webster, by e-mail rackham.loa@umich.edu or call (734) 615-5670.