Leaves of Absence

Continuous registration is required of all degree candidates, but Leaves of Absence may be granted for bona fide reasons, normally for one year. In exceptional circumstances the DGS may approve a second year, but not a third. Final approval is through the Dean. Applications for Leaves of Absence are available in 107 Low Library. Students on Leave lose all student privileges during the time away, including housing, library cards, and gym access. Health insurance may be purchased by arrangement. Also, student loans may become payable.

Medical Leave of Absence
On the written recommendation of a physician and with the approval of the Department, a student who must interrupt study because of physical or psychological illness will be granted a Medical Leave of Absence.

Military Leave of Absence
A Leave of Absence will usually be granted to students who must be absent from the University to fulfill a compulsory military obligation.

Suspension of Responsibilities for Childbirth
The Suspension of Responsibilities for Childbirth Policy gives PhD students in the Arts and Sciences departments who give birth in their fellowship years a six-week period where regular responsibilities associated with their doctoral program are suspended for pregnancy, birth, and/or care of a newborn. Responsibilities that may be suspended include class attendance, course assignments, exams, and other academic requirements; and research and other work in the lab. We recognize that Teaching Fellows make important contributions to the instructional mission of the university. Further, we realize that releasing a TF from the classroom for six weeks could be pedagogically unwise, depending on the point of time in the semester and the extent of the TF’s responsibilities. Thus, for some students, teaching responsibilities may be suspended for the entire semester. Non-teaching responsibilities for Teaching Fellows will be suspended for six weeks.

During this period of suspension of responsibilities, full-time student status will be preserved, so the stipend for a Columbia fellowship, student health insurance, and housing eligibility are retained. The policy does not affect a student’s ability to request a leave of absence to begin after the six-week period has ended.

Click here to read more on the Suspension of Responsibilities for Childbirth Policy.

Other Leaves of Absence
Departments may recommend, subject to the approval of the Dean, a Leave of Absence for other compelling reasons for students who find it necessary to interrupt study. A student is eligible for such a Leave after satisfactory completion of at least one year of study. Examples: pregnancy and infant care.

Time "Off-Plan"
Students ineligible for official Leaves of Absence, who need to interrupt their studies, may go "off-plan" for a year (with the approval of the DGS). Students "off-plan" receive no funding and are required to register for M&F at their own expense.

Since students are expected to teach for four consecutive semesters, a student who plans to take time away from campus should do so during the third or fifth year. In rare circumstances, a student may leave the teaching cohort after only three semesters without jeopardizing future funding. Students who for an involuntary, compelling reason need to interrupt their four consecutive teaching terms should consult the DGS and Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program as early as possible. Students who train to teach and then take a year off must make arrangements with the Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program for review sessions before being given a teaching assignment.

When students return from Leave to full-time study, they resume their program at the point of departure. The year away does not count toward progress to the degree. Their funding pattern remains as it would have been had they not gone away.