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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Research or Other Paid Leave to Enhance Research


  1. Research Leave is an integral part of Durham University's research support system. It allows members of academic staff an academic term free of their scheduled teaching and administrative duties to concentrate on research and research related activities. The purpose of Research Leave is to contribute to the University Research Strategy, by supporting and accelerating the contribution to research outcomes of individual academic members of staff and/or their impact in the wider community.
  2. It is important to recognise that research is a continuous activity, built in to the academic life of all Durham academic staff and generating a culture of research-led teaching. Research Leave augments research capacity rather than replaces continuous research activities. It allows members of academic staff with research in their contract, a period free of teaching and administrative duties to concentrate on their research.
  3. It benefits Durham University, by making it possible for our academics to produce research outputs that will advance the University's reputation and standing in national and international rankings and League Tables and in the REF. The investment we make in Research Leave produces a positive return, as long as the outcomes, or impact, that eventually result from this leave are of REF returnable quality at 3* or 4* and thus qualify, in turn, for QR funding.
  4. In order to make the best use of the investment that the University makes in Research Leave, it is essential that Research Leave is spent exclusively on research. Those on leave therefore should not normally undertake any teaching, including preparation of new teaching materials to be used immediately after their return from leave, or administrative duties. This is a common practice at other, competitor Universities.


  1. The following is based on the principle that all (grade seven and above) academics with research in their contract should be expected to take University funded Research Leave on the basis of one term for every seven worked.
  2. Departments may choose to supplement these schemes from their own research funds to provide an additional term of leave, or to organise teaching to allow everyone a years’ leave at a time. In departments where this is not the case, individuals may save their allocation to take a longer period of leave, normally up to a year in duration, by agreement with their Head of Department.
  3. This is subject to the following conditions:

i. The applicant must have successfully completed her/his probationary period;

ii. Any previous Research Leave should have resulted in outcomes of the appropriate quality, unless the Head of Department is convinced that extenuating circumstances have prevented this;

iii. The period of leave must have as its objective a clear outcome in furtherance of the individual's research or its impact;

iv. The department Director of Education must make arrangements to cover the individual’s teaching and administrative duties, including interdisciplinary obligations;

v. Adequate notice must be possible for the supervision of graduate students, if the leave is to be taken away from Durham, PhD students should be informed in good time and adequate alternative supervision put in place; and

vi. During that leave, no teaching or administrative duties should normally be performed. (Thus individuals must not be compelled to prepare new education materials, to be delivered on their return to teaching, while on Research Leave- see point 1d for justification).


The procedure is as follows:

  1. The Head of Department/Director of Research draws up a rolling timetable for expected leave to be shared with all colleagues, for a period of at least three academic years ahead. These timetables will be subject to faculty-level oversight, to ensure that essential activities, such as delivery of education programmes are not jeopardised.
  2. The outcomes (including impact) arising from Research Leave will be monitored by means of assessment of individual’s research carried out during Departmental Progression Committee procedures, and will be supported via mentoring arrangements. It is recognised that, when leave is used to begin a new research or impact activity, such outcomes may not be produced immediately after the end of the leave period, especially where the research will result in the publication of a monograph.
  3. Failure to produce outcomes from Research Leave within a reasonable period (depending on the expected format), without extenuating circumstances will normally result in an individual losing automatic entitlement to Research Leave until suitable output(s) have been produced.
  4. Each period of Research Leave will be subject to approval from the Head of Department.