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Counselling, Leaves & Time Off

Leave of Absence

Students may take a leave of absence from their program for parental, personal or medical reasons. Students wishing to take a leave of absence should contact the IMS Office. While on leave, students will not be registered nor will they be required to pay fees for this period. In general, students on leave may not make demands upon the resources of the University, attend courses or expect advice from their supervisor, including holding PAC meetings. As an exception, students on leave for parental or serious health reasons who wish to consult with their supervisor or other faculty are advised to make special arrangements through their department. The terminal date of the degree program will be extended by the duration of the leave taken. Normally, the start and finish of the leave would coincide with the beginning and end of a term. Students on any leave of absence are not eligible to receive any University of Toronto Fellowship support during their absence; however, they may defer their fellowship until they return from leave. In the case of other graduate student awards, the regulations of the particular granting agency apply. Students requesting a leave on the basis of serious financial reasons will first be required to apply to the SGS for a bursary.

Personal/Medical Leave

Students may apply to SGS through IMS for a one to three-term leave during their graduate program on the grounds of health problems or personal circumstances that temporarily make it impossible to study. A Request for Leave of Absence form must be completed.

The Faculty of Medicine has also initiated a Leave of Absence Stipendiary Fund for research-stream graduate students. The Leave of Absence Stipendiary Fund is available for a one-term Leave of Absence (LOA) due to health issues (i.e. physical and/or mental health challenges) which temporarily impairs a student’s functioning in his/her graduate program. Funding is available up to $5,000 per student for one term on a one-time only basis.

Students must apply to this fund directly via the Office of Graduate and Life Sciences Education in the Faculty of Medicine at least one month before the start of their LOA. Below is the cycle in which applications will be reviewed.

Parental Leave

Graduate students may apply to SGS through IMS for a one to three-term parental leave. This policy is intended to recognize the need for leave at the time of pregnancy, birth or adoption, and to permit a pause in studies in order to provide full time care in the first year of parenting a new child. Either parent may request up to three terms of leave, which must be completed within twelve months of the date of birth or custody. Where both parents are graduate students seeking parental leave, the total number of terms may not exceed four. The total number of parental leaves received is limited, of course, by the number of children.  A Request for Leave of Absence form must be completed.


The IMS regularly provides confidential counselling to graduate students on a variety of issues – supervisor and laboratory conflicts, personal problems, family care issues, English skills, course completion, how to write up a thesis, financial difficulties, and much, much more.  Our Graduate Coordinators are very familiar with the problems students encounter, and can offer personal suggestions, policy interpretation, and referral to many other student services.   Contact Hazel Pollard at 416-978-5012.

Personal Time for Graduate Students

IMS Graduate Students have a requirement to maintain full-time registration while completing a degree program. However, faculty and students alike recognize that everyone needs a break now and then. It is also essential that research endeavours maintain momentum. There is no extant policy on graduate student personal time, time off, or “vacation”. The IMS offers the following guidelines for faculty and students.

These are guidelines, not policy, and a final decision on time off must be reached between student and supervisor. Students are NOT employees and therefore have no rights to paid vacation time as an employee benefit. These guidelines take into account the existing SGS full-time attendance definition and minimum attendance limits for receipts of student awards, as imposed by granting agencies.

As a general rule, students may take up to three weeks per year in personal time off, plus statutory holidays, under the following conditions:
Time off is negotiated between student and supervisor
Consideration should be given to when the building or lab is closed (i.e. winter holidays) when taking time off.

  • Time off should not compromise the progress of their studies. Students must ensure that laboratory activities and experimentation is either completed, or arrangements made for others to continue ongoing work. Time sensitive deadlines (i.e. award applications, abstract submissions) must be taken into consideration.
  • Time off can not be carried forward from year to year
  • Time off should be requested as far in advance as possible.
  • Student and supervisor should be able to maintain contact as appropriate if the student is away for an extended period