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Flexibility for Faculty Scholarship: Cutting-edge Education from Cutting-edge Scholars

Modern research universities offer their students cutting-edge education because their faculty are actively engaged in defining the cutting edge of their fields through their original scholarship. It’s incumbent on such universities to create environments for such scholarship to enrich student education. A critical ingredient for good scholarship is the ability of faculty to manage their teaching and research with the needed flexibility for them to remain cutting-edge scholars.

Faculty have ongoing responsibilities for service, student mentoring, teaching, and research; giving them flexibility to meet those responsibilities seems wise. In today’s academy, the most precious commodity is time. Increasing time for research and scholarship through “banking” or “stacking” courses and through access to “partial” sabbaticals are two ideas worth discussing.

Banking or Stacking Courses. This option would allow a faculty member to teach more in one semester in return for teaching less in another semester. The faculty member would continue duties of service and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students. Under the banking policy, all semesters of service still count toward sabbatical eligibility. Parameters of a course banking policy might include:

  • Faculty can exercise the banking option with the approval of their Chair or next highest administrative authority. The Chair or next highest administrative authority would normally approve banking if (1) the faculty has a specific research plan of accomplishment for the semester with lower teaching; and, (2) the curricular needs of the department or unit can still be met.
  • Faculty may opt for greater (larger-than-normal) teaching responsibilities in one term in order to have corresponding lower teaching responsibilities in a later term.
  • The benefits of reduced teaching must be applied within two semesters after the larger-than-normal teaching occurred (e.g., with a 2-2 load, if 3 courses are taught in term 1 of year 1, the term of 1 course teaching must occur the following spring of year 1, the fall of year 2 or the spring of year 3). Failing to use the benefits on that schedule leads to a loss of the benefit of the banking.
  • If the reduction results in no teaching requirements in one term, faculty are required to be on campus for service and other responsibilities when teaching zero courses.
  • Unless pre-approved by the dean, course reduction to zero through banking is limited to once every three years.
  • Occasionally a dean or chair requests that a faculty member teach a larger than normal course load in one semester due to the needs of the unit rather than the needs of the faculty member. In such cases, the faculty member can still request to bank additional courses as in bullets 1-5 and the faculty member is not required to submit a research plan, although such a practice is recommended.

With banking or stacking courses, the precious time needed to finish an article or book chapter can be obtained while assuring that Georgetown students still have access to all the teaching and mentoring resources we treasure.

Partial Sabbaticals. Sabbatical eligibility is currently earned at the rate of 15 weeks after every 12 semesters (6 years) of counted service. The current policy is that tenured faculty are eligible for one semester of sabbatical at full pay or two semesters at half pay. Typically faculty members apply for sabbatical in November of their 11th semester of service. Rather than conceptualizing sabbatical eligibility as a once every 12 semesters, each tenured faculty member will be assigned a “sabbatical account” which will be credited with an additional 1.25 weeks of full time support at the end of each semester of full service.

Year 1, term 1 1.25 weeks
Year 1, term 2 2.50 weeks
Year 2, term 1 3.75 weeks
Year 2, term 2 5.00 weeks
Year 3, term 1 6.25 weeks
Year 3, term 2 7.50 weeks
Year 4, term 1 8.75 weeks
Year 4, term 2 10.00 weeks
Year 5, term 1 11.25 weeks
Year 5, term 2 12.50 weeks
Year 6, term 1 13.75 weeks
Year 6, term 2 15.00 weeks

Sometimes faculty research can be accelerated by using a subset of a full sabbatical early. Faculty, with an approved plan involving research activity, can draw upon their sabbatical account in ways that improve their research productivity. Faculty can also combine the options below (half sabbatical after 6 semesters and reduced salary sabbatical after the next 6 semesters), but cannot combine these with full sabbatical. They can split these options after at least 6 semesters of service- e.g., if a faculty member waits 8 semesters to take a reduced salary sabbatical, the faculty member can take the next reduced salary sabbatical after 4 semesters. Faculty members are encouraged to seek outside funding sources to supplement their salary should they take the reduced salary sabbatical option.

Half Sabbaticals: Faculty can request a half sabbatical in the form of a one course reduction after 6 semesters. For example, for the faculty member that teaches a 2:2 load, they might teach 2:1 every 6 semesters instead of 2:0 every 12 semesters. Service and other obligations are similarly reduced.

Reduced Salary Sabbatical: Faculty may request a reduction to 50% salary with zero teaching and service for one 15-week semester after 6 semesters of counted service.

When banking/stacking and partial sabbaticals are combined, a faculty member could concentrate fully on their scholarship for a term while continuing their other campus activities. We’re discussing this proposal with deans and faculty throughout the main campus over the coming days.

One thought on “Flexibility for Faculty Scholarship: Cutting-edge Education from Cutting-edge Scholars

  1. I think this is a wonderful idea and would be really helpful to us. Might the graduate school also offer partial research grants to relieve faculty of a single course so that they might stack a year in to 2:1 or 3:0?

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