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Leave of Absence Policy for Graduate Students

(Adopted June 24, 2008 following approval by faculty vote)

In general the department discourages graduate students from taking leaves of absence in the midst of a degree program as it adversely affects progress towards their graduation. Moreover, leave of absence is a privilege, and not a right: it is subject to approval by the Vice Chair of Graduate Affairs. Approvals of leave of absence petitions will in general be guided according to the following policy:

  • No leave of absence petition is needed for absence during summer quarters.
  • No leave of absence will be granted to students who have exceeded the maximum time to graduation (2 years for MS students and 5 years for PhD students from the time they start in the MS and PhD programs, respectively) except for reasons stated below and only if the student has previously been granted approval for exceeding the graduation time limits.
  • Leave of absence during academic quarters may be granted for verifiable personal or immediate family medical reasons or emergencies. Petitions for such leave of absence must be accompanied by suitable statement from the doctor (in case of medical reasons) or other suitable evidence.
  • Up to three academic quarters of leave of absence in between MS and PhD degrees may be granted for professional enrichment purposes. Specifically, such leave may be given to students who have completed their MS degrees within the department, have been formally admitted to the PhD program, but have not yet started on the PhD program.
  • The leave of absence must start in the quarter immediately after the quarter during which the MS degree requirements were met. The clock for time limits relating to academic milestones (preliminary examination, advancement to candidacy, and graduation) shall be stopped until the end of the leave. In effect, such leave of absence lets the student defer the start of the PhD program without having to go through a re-admission process.
  • Recognizing that the research activities of some students may involve close collaboration with external organizations, the department will approve leave of absence during academic quarters for students to work on their thesis at such collaborating organizations. However, such leave of absence will be limited to up to one quarter for M.S. thesis option students and up to a total of three quarters (not necessarily continuous) for Ph.D. students during their entire duration in the program.
  • For Ph.D. students in general such leave of absence shall be granted only after they have passed the required Ph.D. preliminary examination. Student's academic record will be a factor in the decision to approve such leave of absence. Given the close connection with one's thesis research, the graduation time clock shall not be stopped during such leave of absence (i.e., the time spent during such leave of absence will be counted towards the time limits for milestones relating to preliminary examination, advancement to candidacy, and graduation). Petitions for such leave of absence must be accompanied by a description from the student of the planned research at the external organization during the period of the leave of absence and its relationship to the MS or PhD thesis, and a signature from student's advisor certifying that research plan.
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