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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 30: Take sabbatical

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Despite increasing institutional thrift, or even austerity, some universities and research organizations continue to offer sabbaticals to academic staff (also known as study leave). These are periodic opportunities to set aside teaching and management and concentrate on research, although in some cases sabbatical work may focus on learning and teaching improvement. Sabbaticals are typically, though not necessarily, six months to a year in duration and usually involve conducting work at another institution, often abroad. They are not intended to be a holiday or opportunity for you to paint your house. Sabbatical can be a tremendously refreshing – and demanding – opportunity. On the plus side, sabbatical offers at least six benefits to individual academics (Box 30.1).


•  Rejuvenation and renewal. As the aphorism suggests, ‘A change is as good as a rest’. Simply getting out of your usual routine can allow a real renaissance in your work and attitude to it.

•  Time for reflection. Escaping the everyday demands of ‘administrivia’ and meetings allows opportunity for contemplation on matters such as your research themes, career direction and publishing plans. During sabbatical make yourself scarce in your home institution. Stay away from your office and, where possible, do not answer emails. You are absent. If people have any inkling that you are around you can be assured that they will find urgent, important things for you to do!

•  A fresh perspective. You may have the opportunity to take...

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