Voluntary Leaves of Absence
Students who wish to interrupt their studies at any time before graduation may request a leave of absence. Requests for a leave of absence may be granted by the Associate Dean for Student Services in consultation with other officers of the School and University, as appropriate. With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Associate Dean for Student Services ordinarily will consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student).
Students may be granted a leave for a maximum of one academic year at a time. Students may reapply for additional leaves. Leaves of absence are generally limited to two years.
Students approved for a leave of absence will not be assessed tuition for the term(s) of leave that is approved. Students on leave are not covered by the University’s health plan. Information regarding insurance coverage during a leave of absence is available on the Harvard University Student Health Program website. Email Member Services or call 617-495-2008.
Students on leave will not have access to electronic library and other University resources.
To petition to obtain a leave of absence, students must complete a Leave of Absence Petition, obtain the signatures of the Associate Dean for Student Services and the financial aid officer, and then submit the completed form to the Registrar’s Office for review before the start of the semester.
With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Sr. Associate Director of Student Affairs and/or the Associate Dean for Student Services may consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student), as appropriate.
Involuntary Leaves of Absence
Under certain circumstances, a student may be placed on a involuntary leave of absence. An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction. However, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons rather than to be placed on an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons is ordinarily allowed to do so. Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.
An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:
- Medical circumstances:
- (i) The student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and (ii) either the student’s threatening, self-destructive, or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by Harvard University Health Services or other clinicians to determine the cause of the behavior.
- The student is not cleared to return to enrollment and/or residence at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan School) following either: (i) a hospitalization or emergency room visit that raises serious concerns about the student’s health or well-being; or (ii) other circumstances that raise serious concerns about the student’s health or well-being and reasonably call into question their ability to function as a student in the Harvard Chan School environment. For more about the process of clearance to return to enrollment and/or residence after a hospitalization or emergency room visit, see https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/student-handbook/leave-of-absences-and-withdrawal/.The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health related reasons is made by the Associate Dean for Student Services in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student), after an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, such as: the nature of the student’s conduct; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk, such as a reduced course load or course modifications. However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the School’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service can be expected to provide.
- Failure to adhere to the terms of an agreement to engage in treatment.The student’s continued enrollment and/or residence is conditioned on the student’s agreement to meet the expectations set forth in an agreement to engage in treatment, such as following the recommendations of the student’s treatment team, and the student has failed to adhere to the terms of that agreement.
- Alleged criminal behavior. The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.
- Risk to the community.The student has allegedly violated a disciplinary rule of the School, and their presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.
- Indebtedness. The student’s term bill is unpaid and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the School to address the issue.
- Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations.
- Unfulfilled School requirements. The student has not met an academic or other School requirement, including without limitation, attending class or participating in required activities, and has not taken steps acceptable to the School to meet the requirement.
- Failure to register.The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.
The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by the Associate Dean for Student Services in consultation with other officers of the School and University, as appropriate or such other person as the Dean designates. As noted above, in the case of an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the School will consult with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services.
Students are notified in writing that they have been placed on involuntary leave. A student may petition the Dean of Education for reconsideration, generally within five calendar days, and may appeal a final decision to the Dean of the School.
While on Leave of Absence
Students who go on leave of absence during the academic year are not charged tuition but are charged any applicable fees, including rent if living in University housing to the end of the period in which they leave. Students receiving scholarship or other financial aid should consult the Financial Aid Office concerning the financial aid implications of going on leave. Students on F1 and J1 visas should consult the Harvard International Office concerning their status.
The date a student goes on leave will affect the student’s health insurance through Harvard. For details, review the Leave of Absence policy on the HUHSP website, or contact the Student Health Insurance Office, Member Services, at 617-495-2008 or email@example.com.
Libraries and other School or University facilities normally may be used only by students who are currently registered. Students on leave may not participate in extracurricular activities. Exceptions to this rule must be must be specifically approved in advance by the School. If so instructed by the Associate Dean for Student Services, a student on leave must remain away from the University campus.
Students going on leave are reminded that all degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.
Following an individualized assessment, the School may require students who are on leave for medical reasons to comply with a treatment plan during their time away.
Returning to School
A student in good standing on a voluntary leave of absence ordinarily may return by notifying the Registrar’s Office twelve weeks in advance of the start of any term, although it remains the student’s responsibility to ensure that they have adequate time to complete the degree within the time limits established by the School.
Students who were not in good standing at the time a voluntary leave of absence was granted and students who were placed on an involuntary leave of absence must petition the Associate Dean for Student Services for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies. The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the Associate Dean for Student Services, in consultation with other officers of the School and University, as appropriate. or such other person as the Dean designates.
If the leave, whether voluntary or involuntary, was for medical reasons, then the student must petition the Associate Dean for Student Services for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and they are ready to resume their studies. In addition, so that the School may conduct an individualized assessment of their circumstances, students on medical leave ordinarily will be required to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their relevant treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s productivity during their time away and readiness to return can be shared with the School. In addition, if the School learns of serious concerns about the health or well-being of a student who either has been hospitalized or visited the emergency room or whose behavior reasonably calls into question their ability to function as a student in the Harvard Chan School environment, then the School similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their relevant treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers). The purpose of such consultation is so that a professional assessment can be shared with the School about the student’s readiness to return and function in the student environment, with or without reasonable accommodation. Note that while the input of a student’s treatment provider is an important consideration in the petition process, Harvard University Health Services clinicians may have special knowledge of the University context to which students will be returning. In all such cases, the decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the Associate Dean for Student Services, in consultation with other officers of the School and University, as appropriate or such other person as the Dean designates. Any student whose petition to return from a medical leave of absence is denied will receive a written explanation of the decision and may submit a written appeal of the decision to the Dean of Education or their designee within five (5) calendar days, based on the following grounds: (a) new materially relevant information has become available; and/or (b) there is reasonable evidence of a procedural error in the decision-making process.
Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on leave of absence will be allowed to return and, if the student has been required to withdraw while on leave of absence, then any conditions for return after a required withdrawal also must be satisfied.
Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for financial aid must notify the Financial Aid Office and file the necessary application forms by mid-April for the following fall term, and by October 1 for the following spring term. Late applicants cannot be assured that their aid will be available in time for registration payment deadlines.
Students who have been granted a leave and who have borrowed money through Harvard must submit an annual loan deferment form to the Student Loan Office upon their return to Harvard. Deferment forms may be obtained through either the Student Loan Office or the Financial Aid Office and must be completed and certified by the Registrar immediately following Registration. Failure to file a deferment form upon return will cause payments to be due on loans and could affect future borrowing eligibility.
A student will not be allowed to register in the University again until all previous term-bill charges have been paid and no loan is in default.
Agreements to Engage in Treatment
The School may condition a student’s enrollment and/or residence on certain terms or conditions, as set forth in a written contract between the School and the student, when the student’s conduct or circumstances have caused heightened concerns about the student’s safety and/or well-being and: (a) the appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment and/or residence; or (b) the student’s readiness to return to the Harvard community. The agreement to engage in treatment may include, among other things, compliance with a medical treatment plan, regular consultations with health care professionals, communication with administrators, and limited disclosure of relevant medical information, on a need-to-know basis, such as compliance with treatment and restrictions on certain activities. The decision to require such an agreement is arrived at in consultation with Harvard University Health Services after an individualized assessment of the nature of the student’s conduct and circumstances and any other pertinent factors.
Clearance for Return
After a hospitalization or emergency room visit by one of its students that raises serious concerns about the students health or well-being, or in other circumstances that raise serious questions about the student’s health or well-being and reasonably call into question their ability to function as a student in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health environment, the Harvard Chan School ordinarily will not permit that student to return to residence and enrollment or participation in any Harvard-related programs or activities before making its own assessment of the suitability of the student’s return. (See “Procedure for Notice and Consultation” below). To better inform that assessment, students are expected to notify both Harvard Chan School and HUHS of any hospitalization or emergency department visit. HUHS can be notified by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 617-495-5711.
Reason for Policy
An important consideration in the Harvard Chan School’s decision as to whether a student may continue in or return to residence and enrollment is the impact of the student’s presence on the community. A student who is injured, ill, or exhibiting disturbing or disruptive behavior may require ongoing care. Serious alcohol- or drug-related problems, in particular, have the potential to disrupt residential life and/or life in the academic community significantly and impair a student’s ability to function academically and socially. The Harvard Chan School regards as unreasonable the expectation that roommates, suitemates, friends, or Harvard Chan School staff will take on health care responsibilities for other students.
Any student may, of course, refuse to allow consultation between the student’s clinician(s) and Harvard Chan School, but such a refusal will not prevent Harvard Chan School from making a decision regarding a student’s return to residence or continued enrollment.
Procedure for Notice and Consultation
The Harvard Chan School will consult with clinicians at HUHS and/or, if the student has been treated elsewhere, clinicians at other facilities or in private practice, ordinarily with the student’s permission. Depending on all of the relevant circumstances, such consultation may be initiated either by the Harvard Chan School or by clinicians at HUHS. Notice that a student has been hospitalized or treated in an emergency department of an area hospital may prompt Harvard Chan School to begin a process of consultation through which it will decide whether and under what circumstances the student may continue in or return to residence or enrollment.
The Harvard Chan School also may independently decide that, based on its observations or other information it has about a student, it should initiate the process of consultation with HUHS clinicians, which may include ascertaining whether that student has been hospitalized or treated by an emergency department.
Consultation will be focused on the concerns raised by the student’s condition or behavior and requirements for continued care, in order to facilitate Harvard Chan School’s decision about the student’s capacity to continue in or return to residence and enrollment.
Family Leave Policy
Doctoral students have several options designed to maximize flexibility during periods of family leave. A student may apply for parental leave or leave to assist an immediate family member in need of care under the standard procedures for leaves of absence. Students may choose to take time away from the School and make no progress toward their degree (leave of absence). Students on leave of absence may continue to have access to their School email account but will not be considered active students and will thus not have access to electronic library resources nor be able to use a student ID for access to facilities. Students on leave may maintain some physical access to the Harvard Chan School and Countway Library. Arrangements for this access may be made through the School’s Office for Student Affairs.
Alternatively, a doctoral student may make arrangements to enroll as a part-time student and register for a small number of independent study or research credits (1.25-credit minimum to 5-credit maximum). If the student chooses the latter alternative, tuition will be assessed at the standard per-credit rate. Students enrolled in part-time status will maintain access to all Harvard facilities and electronic library resources available to students at the School. Doctoral students who elect this option should be aware that tuition paid while on family leave will not count toward the residency requirement. The GSAS policies website contains more details for PhD candidates. All degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.
Students considering taking family leave should consult with their adviser, the Registrar’s Office, and the Office for Student Affairs.