Research and Study Leave Guidelines


  • Academic staff members applying for and undertaking Research and Study Leave (RSL)
  • Academic heads who are considering RSL applications
  • Faculty Staffing Committee (FSC) members who are considering applications
  • Deans and directors who are making RSL decisions


To provide additional guidance and information about the processes for applying for, approving and undertaking Research and Study leave.

Guidelines for staff members

Before you apply

  • RSL is an opportunity for you to continue to develop as an effective researcher and teacher. For this reason, discussing if, when and where to undertake a period of RSL is an important part of your Academic Development and Performance Review (ADPR)
  • There is a section in the ADPR form that asks you to indicate when you are thinking of applying for RSL and a commentary box where you can outline your plans
  • Plans outlined in the ADPR process are for discussion – they do not replace the need to outline your final plans in the RSL application
  • It is unlikely your academic head will support an application if there has not been a discussion as part of a recent ADPR
  • If you need to discuss possible changes to your RSL plans, especially in terms of timing, prior to your ADPR you can request to meet your academic head and then record the result of the discussion in your ADPR form
  • Check your RSL time allowance on PeopleSoft to ensure you are applying for the correct amount of RSL. While you can take less than the balance (which will be held over to be used in a subsequent application should you wish to do so) you cannot apply for more time than you will have available at the time you wish to take leave
  • If you have transferred from, or been appointed to, an eligible role such as lecturer or senior lecturer from a previously ineligible role, such as professional teaching fellow or research/senior research fellow, your allocation will be calculated from the date of your appointment or transfer
  • While it is the responsibility of your academic head to ensure that the work of the academic unit can continue while you are on leave, it is useful if you have any thoughts on how the responsibilities you would usually undertake during the time you are proposing to take as leave could be met.

Your application

  • It’s a good idea to let your academic head have a look at your application prior to submitting it especially if there are changes to the plan you have already discussed
  • The RSL policy requires that you apply for leave at least 8 months prior to the start of your intended leave. This is to give your academic head time to make suitable arrangements to cover any teaching and administration duties that you would normally undertake. If you are in the position where you can confirm your plans earlier than this, it would be appreciated by all parties, however the maximum time you can apply prior to the start of leave is 12 months
  • Applications need to be submitted to your academic head by the first of each month (February to November). If you miss the deadline of the first of the month you application will go into the following month for consideration. This is particularly important for the last round of the year (1 November) as no applications will be considered in December or January
  • If you are applying for 10 or more months of leave you may request to split this over two years in order to enable the academic unit to cover its teaching. Your academic head may also suggest this an alternative to deferring leave if they cannot cover the academic needs of the unit over a prolonged period of leave. Your will accumulate leave allocation in the period between taking your RSL.
  • You do not have to provide a detailed itinerary of any travel plans in your application. However, if you are planning to travel, either inside New Zealand or internationally, it is important that you indicate where (and when) you are planning to go and provide indicative costs. This will help the dean understand your grant-in-aid request
  • A grant-in-aid is a contribution to help you meet the costs that can be incurred during RSL. If you are spending all or most of your leave in New Zealand you may not need the whole amount that you could claim based on the length of leave you are taking. Please be realistic when making your request
  • Make sure there is enough information in each section to allow the FSC subcommittee to see how this leave meets the objectives of RSL as outlined in the policy
  • If this is your first RSL application you only have to complete Section One and Two of the RSL Application Form
  • If you have had RSL previously you will have to provide details about how you met the objectives as outlined in your previous leave application. This is important as if the FSC subcommittee and the dean cannot see the benefits for you and for the academic unit, faculty and University they are unlikely to view your application favourably

Note: if your last period of RSL was prior to the introduction of the new policy you will need to submit your leave report instead.

  • Once you have submitted your application you also need to apply for RSL leave in PeopleSoft. This is so that the leave application and outcome can be recorded in the system. This is done in the same way as applying for annual leave.

After a decision is made on your leave application

  • You will receive a letter from the dean or their delegate detailing the outcome of the decision
  • The decision of the dean can be to approve the application as it was made, approve with amendments or decline. You will always be given reasons for any amendments or for a decision to decline.
  • If your leave is approved you will also be told the amount of grant-in-aid that has been approved and how to uplift it.
  • If you are travelling either within New Zealand or overseas it is expected that air-travel arrangements will be made using the University’s Travel Management Company (TMC), Orbit. You can find information relating to travel, on the Travel Policy page.
  • Your grant-in aid is inclusive of travel arrangements made though the TMC.
  • You should send any travel itineraries not booked through the TMC (e.g. when a collaborating institution has purchased your flight) to the Risk Office. The Risk Office will manually add the details to the traveller tracking system to enable the University’s emergency assistance provider to contact you in case of any emerging risks or incidents in the vicinity of your travel. This is not required if you book through the TMC as they automatically upload travel itineraries to the system.
  • You will need to apply to your academic head to release your grant-in-aid using the Grant-in-aid Request Form at least 6 weeks before your leave begins. You will need to include a copy of your itinerary as well as any changes you have made to your travel between your original application and this request.
  • Grant-in-aid is released by issuing you with a University credit card which will be pre-loaded with the approved amount. You should use this to book travel and/or accommodation though the University’s TMC as well as for accommodation, travel and other RSL related expenses either while you are overseas or if you are travelling in New Zealand. A credit card will take up to 10 days to arrive so you need to factor that into your timeframe when requesting the release of your grant-in-aid.
  • If you are travelling overseas it is important to understand the University’s Funded Travel Terms and Conditions and read the Staff/ Non-student Travel Insurance FAQs. If you intend to be away for more than 180 days or are travelling to an area categorised as “avoid non-essential travel” or “do not travel” you should contact the Risk Office to discuss options You can find more information on travel insurance on the Travel and accommodation page.
  • Your RSL begins and ends on the dates stated in your application. If you want to leave the country earlier than the stated date, or arrive back later, you will need to apply for annual leave.

While you are on RSL

  • If you are travelling whilst on RSL it is important that we know where you are should an emergency arise both internationally and within New Zealand. The University’s travel insurance provides for 24/7 International medical and security assistance.
  • Please also let your academic head know if you make any changes to your planned itinerary whilst on RSL for the reason stated above
  • If your leave is longer than six months it is a good idea to think about taking some annual leave during that time. If you are taking 12 months’ RSL it is expected that you will apply for some annual leave during that time
  • While you are on leave you are still a University employee and have an obligation to remain contactable. This obligation extends to checking email from time to time to keep abreast of important information and developments in your academic unit and taking part in the ADPR process as required.

When you return

  • Within 90-days of returning from RSL you should use the relevant form to inform finance that your credit card can be cancelled. Any funds remaining on the card will be removed when it is cancelled. Please contact the Shared Transaction Centre if you believe that costs incurred whilst overseas may not clear within the 90-day time-frame.
  • RSL represents a significant investment by the University in terms of both time and money so it is important to see that it is being used productively. This is achieved through asking you to comment on what you did while you were on leave in the Interim Leave Report, and how you met your stated RSL objectives in the commentary section of your next RSL application
  • Within three months of returning from RSL you need to fill in your RSL Interim Leave Report. This is so your academic head can understand what you did whilst on leave and is considered an integral part of the RSL process. It would be a good idea to put a reminder in your calendar as if you don’t meet the deadline any future grant-in-aid request could be adversely impacted (see guidelines for deans).
  • Your academic head will only sign your report if they are satisfied that they understand what you spent your time doing whilst on RSL so you may be asked to resubmit your report if this is not the case
  • You will need to append this to your next RSL application so it is good idea to save the version that is signed and dated by your academic head in the documents section of Career Tools
  • A more comprehensive commentary on the outcomes of your leave will be expected in your next leave application (should you make one) so it’s a good idea to keep some notes as it may be some time between applications.

Guidelines for academic heads

Before a staff member applies

  • It is important that you discuss RSL plans with eligible staff members at their ADPR meeting each year. This will help you plan for any intended periods of leave as well as provide advice and support to the staff member on their proposed plans. Please note that Senior Tutors are eligible but they will need to demonstrate that they can meet all the objectives of RSL including the research objective
  • When discussing RSL proposals with a staff member you need to encourage them to think beyond the benefits of the leave to the individual to how it can also benefit the discipline/academic unit and the wider University
  • You should also think about the outputs the staff member is proposing and whether they are realistic – sometimes a staff member can be overly ambitious (or perhaps not ambitious enough)
  • RSL can also be about reflection and developing new research and/or teaching interests
  • It may be useful to assign a mentor from the disciplinary area to provide more guidance and support
  • If you delegate ADPRs it is vital that you meet with the delegates to gain an understanding of the RSL plans for that group of staff members
  • Your staff member may need to discuss possible changes to their RSL plans, especially in terms of timing, prior to their ADPR. If this is the case they can request to meet with you and then record the result of the discussion in their ADPR form for future reference
  • Encourage the applicant to show you their application prior to submitting it so you (or an appropriate mentor) can make recommendations (if necessary) to improve the application
  • You can run a report from Career Tools at any time that will show you who is thinking of applying for RSL in the upcoming 3 year period.

After a staff member applies

  • Staff members have to apply at least 8 months, and no more than 12 months, before the start date of their proposed leave. It is important that you write your report in a timely manner (within one month of application) so it can be reviewed by the FSC subcommittee and the dean in enough time to allow you to make final arrangements for any necessary teaching cover.
  • It is your responsibility as academic head to ensure teaching can be covered, not the responsibility of the staff member. If suitable teaching arrangements cannot be made you need to state why in your commentary, and your recommendation should be that while you agree with the proposed RSL plan, you recommend that the leave be deferred and include a timeframe
  • Some staff members like to continue their supervisions whilst on RSL. It’s a good idea to have a discussion about this both during the ADPR, and if necessary when you receive the application, as a heavy supervisory load could compromise the ability of the staff member to achieve their RSL objectives. If it is necessary to maintain a number of supervisions the applicant should address how they plan to undertake the supervisions in a manner that is not detrimental to the stated objectives of the RSL or their health and wellbeing
  • When you are writing your recommendation it is important that you comment on the performance of the applicant and that this commentary is reflective of any statements made about performance in the ADPR. An applicant should not find out about performance concerns via the RSL process
  • After the leave is approved, if the staff member has requested grant-in-aid you will need to approve the release of the grant-in-aid by signing the Final Itinerary Approval and Grant-in-aid Release Form for Research and Study Leave (RSL) once it has been submitted to you. Please check the amount requested in the form against the amount approved by the dean (as recorded in the application form).

While a staff member is on RSL

  • Important things can happen while a staff member is on RSL (reviews, restructures, programme changes). It is your responsibility to make sure that all staff are communicated with on important matters and this includes staff members on RSL
  • Staff members on RSL are expected to participate in the ADPR process if it cannot be feasibly rescheduled or the leave is for a long enough period that rescheduling would mean that the staff member would not have an ADPR within 12 months of the last one.
  • If the staff member is in Auckland you may like to ensure they are included in invitations to social events
  • It may also be necessary to ensure that staff members remaining in Auckland don’t allow themselves to be pulled too much into matters that may significantly impact on their ability to achieve their RSL objectives.

When a staff member returns from leave

  • On their return from RSL the staff member must provide you with an Interim Leave Report within 3 months. Staff members are asked to put a reminder in their calendars. Failure to have the Interim Leave Report to you within the time period could adversely affect the amount of any future grant-in-aid
  • You do not have to sign the report if you don’t believe the detail provided gives you a good understanding of what was undertaken and accomplished whilst the staff member was on leave. If this is the case you can send it back for revision.

Guidelines for Faculty Staffing (FSC) Sub-committee members

  • When you receive a RSL application for consideration you need to review it in a timely manner (within one month of receipt) so that both the applicant and the academic head can move forward with making any necessary arrangements for travel and teaching cover.
  • It is recommended that you meet to discuss the application, either in person or via a digital medium that facilitates a conversation (not email) and that one person is nominated to write the report, which is section five of the application form, and which needs to be signed by all members of the subcommittee
  • If the application is straightforward there is no need to meet with the applicant
  • If there are minor points that you would like to have clarified by either the applicant or the academic head this can be done via email and referenced in your report.
  • If you have concerns about any aspect of the application you can meet with the applicant and/or the academic head to discuss these. You can record the results of this meeting in the report or as an attachment to the report.
  • You have the ability to recommend amendments to the application. The dean will decide if these amendments should be proposed to the applicant before approving or declining the application
  • It is important that you are confident that the applicant has met the objectives of any past leave before you recommend approving an application.

Guidelines for deans

  • As there is no longer one RSL round and applications can come in at any time you may like to think about how you want to approach setting up your FSC subcommittees. You could, for example, roster at least two people from your FSC on for each month (or call for volunteers). That way members would know that they needed to be available at a certain time. Alternatively you could ask for volunteers, or assign FSC members, when the application arrived. If you have new FSC members it is a good idea to pair them with a more experienced FSC member
  • It is important that the FSC subcommittee receives the application as soon as possible after it arrives so that the staff member and academic head have sufficient time to make any arrangements for travel and teaching cover should the application be approved
  • After reviewing the application and the reports of the academic head and FSC subcommittee the final decision is yours. If your decision is anything other than to approve please make your reasons clear in the commentary section so that all parties can see why the decision was made
  • It may be a good idea to meet with the academic head to further explain any decisions that are at odds with the academic head’s recommendation so that they are able to clearly communicate with their staff member
  • If you feel that an application would benefit from consideration by the full FSC before you make your final decision you may submit the application to it. This must be done in a timely manner and cannot unduly delay communicating the final decision to the applicant and the academic head.
  • At either the last FSC meeting for the year, or the first FSC meeting the following year, it is recommended that the FSC consider a report showing all applications and the outcomes for the faculty in the calendar year to enable the FSC to monitor access to RSL for all eligible staff including those from equity groups.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Dean refers to both deans of faculties and directors of Large Scale Research Institutes.

Grant-in-aid is funding made available to a staff member who has been approved RSL in order to assist with covering actual incurred costs during the period of leave.

University means the University of Auckland.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Content manager: Associate Director, HR Advisory
Owner: Director, Human Resources
Approved by: Vice-Chancellor
Date approved: 01 November 2019
Review date: 01 November 2022