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What's the deal with research leave where you are?

(18 Posts)
sushidave Sun 15-Nov-15 19:28:03

I'm on research leave at the moment and have been surprised at the discrepancies in leave practises between Universities. I'm fairly junior and had assumed that my colleagues elsewhere would have benefited from fairly regular periods in which to finish up papers, put major bids in and basically to put things in place to keep their research going until the next period of leave. However, I have professor friends who have never had a University-funded teaching relief, and other colleagues who have to fight in competitive schemes to claim a semester away from teaching and admin.

Where I am, these one-semester periods of leave are essential as the teaching/admin load is prohibitively heavy to make any real research headway. They come around pretty much automatically every three years or so (with an accepted internal proposal), although since they don't come with funding, it does mean that my departmental colleagues have to cover the gaps left by the one who's on leave. We just get used to permanently being a person down. I also competed for matching funding from elsewhere so I've got a full year. grin

I'm loving my research leave so far - time to spend on just one or two projects per day instead of trying to shoehorn bits of analysis or writing into half days here and there (if I'm lucky). I was feeling pretty burnt out with my teaching - taking shortcuts and getting impatient with students who needed my time, so the way I see it, research leaves have many advantages - not just the obviously research related ones. It's also meant I've been able to travel away from my University city so it really feels like all the administration and other time-sucks are far far away.

And I realise I'm very lucky, since leave is by no means a standard across my institution, the UK or beyond. This recent THE article is an interesting survey: www.timeshighereducation.com/features/sabbaticals-no-longer-so-open-ended-or-available/2019616.article

I was going to post on the life passing you by thread www.mumsnet.com/Talk/academics_corner/2499175-Anyone-feel-like-life-is-passing-them-by-due-to-being-an-academic, and realised that what I had to say was dramatically different to how I would have contributed to the thread just three months ago when I was in the thick of teaching and admin. My hours are about a third shorter yet I’m getting much more of value done.

That was long. How does leave work where you are? And any tips for making the most of it?

BackforGood Sun 15-Nov-15 22:56:25

I opened this up to find out what 'research leave' is.
It's my husband that is the academic / lecturer / researcher, but we've not come across this rather utopian suggestion shock

NeverEverAnythingEver Mon 16-Nov-15 10:58:24

One term for every 9 terms or something like that here. Not automatic - you have to apply, but I think that might be a formality.

Research leave is lovely. Enjoy!

NeverEverAnythingEver Mon 16-Nov-15 11:00:36

I've only ever had one so not really any tips. I took a week off just on my own. smile It was heavenly. And I wrote papers and started a new project. And I said no to all kinds of things. It was very refreshing.

sushidave Mon 16-Nov-15 20:12:42

Yes to the no thing, Never! I'm hoping to maintain all sorts of healthy habits after I return to the front line.

NeverEverAnythingEver Tue 17-Nov-15 07:26:53

It's the research leave combined with a mentoring scheme that made me realise what I've been doing and what I can do.

- say NO to things you don't want to do.

- for things you can't say no to spend a bit of time and effort to make it count for you.

(Can't say more or I'll out myself...)

NeverEverAnythingEver Tue 17-Nov-15 07:27:21

(Sorry. That sounds so obvious. blush)

TooDamnSarky Tue 17-Nov-15 12:06:59

Interesting thread.
I've been a lecturer/SL for 10 years and have never had research leave. I've been given the impression that this is only usually possible here if you had external funding to cover your teaching.
But I plan on raising it with my HoD as one of my big admin roles is due to end in 9 months so would be a good time to do this.

kalidasa Wed 18-Nov-15 21:33:36

I am also on research leave at the moment. It's my first, but I was due some a while ago which I didn't take so I've got two terms rather than one. I am really glad I made that decision now.

I am loving the leave and getting loads done, though I do find that I feel oddly much more negative about my job/institution in general at the moment than when I'm in the thick of teaching and admin. Not what I expected!

Where I am you have the right to apply for one term of research leave for every three years, but it's not automatic anymore, you do have to make a case for it. (I'm not sure though whether anyone gets turned down!)

BackforGood Wed 18-Nov-15 23:12:46

I asked dh about it today and he said it depends on your institution. He said because where he works is proud of their research record, then his contract is such that he is supposed to spend 1/3 of time lecturing, 1/3 on research, and 1/3 on various other faffing about not sure those are the exact words in the contract, whereas in some universities you would have a higher % of teaching on your timetable, so then you need to have 'leave' to catch up with research. Does that sound right for other posters?

kalidasa Thu 19-Nov-15 13:40:33

Our terms are 40% research, 40% teaching and 20% admin/pastoral care etc. But we still get research leave. Interesting that conditions are so variable. I definitely can (and do) write articles and chapters without research leave, but I really value it for the chance to plan larger projects and take stock of my research overall. I think that bigger picture stuff is much harder without leave and it's that which leads to real shifts/new ideas.

TooMuchRain Thu 19-Nov-15 13:49:05

I've worked at two places in the UK and both had standard leave policies for research active members of staff. In the first, you could apply once every three years but it wasn't automatic, you needed a convincing research plan. In the second, there's no time limit but it's competitive and similarly you need to be planning a chunky REF output / major funding application to get it.

Impostersyndrome Fri 20-Nov-15 20:39:05

Where I am, research intensive university, it's a term every three years, granted with a clear target (finish book, write research proposal, etc.), but it's so poorly advertised that I only became aware of it when I got into a managerial position and had to consider a much more on the ball staff member's application. Looks like I'll never have one now, as I feel obliged to let all the more junior staff take their turn first. (Poor me emoticon). Feeling very tired after a draining week).

sushidave Sat 21-Nov-15 00:00:05

We are also on a 33/33/33 split for teaching, research and admin but in reality, teaching and admin take up all of the time during teaching weeks and often into non-teaching time too once you've worked on admissions duties, assessment, personal tutoring etc. So, my institution provides a terms's catch-up time every three years to complete projects and put things in place to run until the next period of leave. There's a range of reasons why teaching and admin take priority and research is pushed back, not least softer self-imposed deadlines for the latter. Saying no a bit more should help rebalance things a little, I hope.

Interesting what you say kalidasa. I feel similarly, to the extent of being tempted by research-only temporary positions. As my colleague reminded me, I'd be idiotic to give up the security of a permanent position for a three year post, but STILL, I'm loving the freedom away from adminitrivia and just want more time on pure research. <greedy>

Imposter, that's rubbish to have a covert leave scheme! I'd get a proposal in smartish before the competition grows..

hefzi Sat 21-Nov-15 01:06:35

We don't have any, unless it's externally funded: it's something we are battling to get into place, though.

We don't have a formal workload split - though notionally, our teaching is theoretically not expected to account for more than 33%, and our "work" research time is only 10% - much less 40:40:20, as we are a post-92 institution. However, the policy is that all staff must be entered into the REF, with 3* and above entries: so we are asking searching question about how we can achieve what is expected of colleagues on a 40:40:20 at research intensive old universities, without the same "space" in which to achieve it. Things are better than they were - they are at least listening to our questions!

I have a much, much lighter load than at any time in the last five years, and I teach between 10 and 12 hours a week for 2 semesters (lectures, not seminars) plus, of course, u/g and p/g supervisions. We're also required to be in our offices at least 4 days out of every week, and as we all know, there's nothing like being around and not in class to have your day eaten away with student dramas, colleague dramas and random meetings where some other fucker colleague hasn't shown up and someone is needed for quoracy/regs/so an academic misconduct panel can function etc

I try to maximise my time as best I can, and take advantage of little chunks, but I am definitely not good at that, and tend to end up battling never-ending emails/marking/reference requests (seriously - since the start of this calendar year, I'm significantly into the hundreds on this: it's never been as bad as it is now - anyone else finding that?) rather than drafting and redrafting - my type of primary research isn't possible from my desk, sadly. But hey, that's what we get annual leave for, right?!

CityDweller Sat 21-Nov-15 19:40:21

Competitive basis at my institution. I've had it once in 6 years.

kalidasa Sun 22-Nov-15 13:16:48

Yes that's pretty different hefzi. If teaching is 33% and research 10%, what are you supposed to be doing with the other 57% of your time?

For comparison, the 'standard' full teaching load (I.e. For a lecturer not on probation and with no teaching reduction for a big admin job) is 140 hours over 20 weeks, so 7 hours a week on average of lectures/classes. That's a lot less than 10-12 (which only our teaching fellows would do - I.e. Staff with no research element in their contract).

hefzi Mon 30-Nov-15 18:31:44

kalidasa I guess that would be admin? I'm not sure - but I am never looking about for ways to fill my time grin

We do have a lot of students with major pastoral support needed, which always takes up a huge chunk of every week, and I personally have admin roles in my department, school and faculty, and one also at central university level (though that doesn't happen often- it's the final level of appeals): I think also that marking doesn't come out of the teaching time.

Before this role, I was a TF at another university and I adored that institution and my teaching level was about the same, from memory: except lectures were only 2 hours long, and there were seminars in there too. It was a tough job in that I had to write all the material from scratch (nothing I'd studied before, let alone taught, and no inherited notes/slides etc) but somehow easier because there was 24/7 access to campus (we can't get in now before 7 and have to leave at 8.30, or 6.30 on Friday). I managed to find time to spend six weeks away on research even so (before the summer) and also didn't work seven days a week. And what really helped was being appreciated - by colleagues and by students: clearly, I am a shameless approval junkie!

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