Leave of Absence Request

General Information

A student may request a leave of absence when personal, health, parental, professional or academic reasons (as detailed below) interrupt studies. Leaves of absence are approved by the supervisor and/or Graduate Program Coordinator (where appointed) or Program Chair where no supervisor or Graduate Program Coordinator is assigned.  Where a supervisor or Graduate Program Coordinator is assigned, the Program Chair also reviews and signs the form prior to the Dean’s final approval. Students must be in good standing with no outstanding fees or F Grades to request a leave of absence. Students are required to register in the semester of their return by the registration deadline. Failure to register following a leave will result in a withdrawal.

Deadline: Two weeks prior to the start of the semester a leave begins.

Find the form here.

Leave Start and Duration

Leaves start at the beginning of a semester (for a duration up to a maximum of 12 months or 18 months for parental leave). Time spent on leave does not count toward the time limit for program completion.  Partial semester leaves are not available.  At least one month prior to the end of the leave of absence, students must inform their supervisor, graduate program coordinator (where appointed) or Program Chair of their intention to return and register.  Please include the Office of Graduate Administration, grad-office@unbc.ca, on this communication.

Deadline and Fees

The request for a leave must be submitted two weeks prior to the start of the semester in which the leave will begin. A request will not be considered if a student’s time limit has expired or if the student is on a Continuance Review.  Provided the request is received before the deadline, students on a leave of absence do not pay tuition or student fees for the duration of the leave.

Late Requests and Dropping Courses

Late requests can only be accepted under exceptional circumstances. Requests accommodated after the date to drop coursework without financial penalty will not have tuition fees refunded. The submitted form should include a list of all registered coursework. International students cannot be approved for a backdated leave.

For students registered in coursework, depending on the date submitted and the final approval of the Dean, coursework may be dropped (registration removed) or withdrawn ("w" remains on transcript). It is important to understand that continuous registration is a requirement for all graduate students. This means that a student must either be registered in coursework or on a leave of absence.

If a student is seeking only a partial drop of registered coursework and will remain registered in some coursework for the semester, an Add/Drop Registration form should be submitted instead of a leave of absence form.

Deferring in-progress coursework may be an option and students should speak with their instructor, Supervisor or Chair for guidance on this.

Extended Leaves

Extended leaves of absence are only granted on an exceptional basis, with very strong reasoning from the student, full support of the supervisor (where appointed) or Program Chair if no supervisor is appointed.Where a supervisor is assigned, the Program Chair also reviews exceptional leave requests and signs prior to the Dean’s final review and approval. The conditions for a return from a leave of absence may require that additional coursework be completed or repeated and additional criteria be established for continued study.

Academic and Research Work While on Leave

A student cannot undertake academic or research work during the period of leave and cannot hold a teaching or research assistant position. Students must list any assistantships they hold on the leave form.

Deferred Coursework

If a student has an existing deferred grade (DEF) on their student record, the student must liaise with the course instructor and supervisor to discuss options. With the permission of the instructor, deferral expiration dates are typically extended to the end of the first semester of return from a leave. It is a student's responsibility to ensure they have addressed outstanding deferrals prior to requesting a leave.

Awards and Scholarship During On-Leave Status

Students must include a list of any awards, scholarships, grants or stipends currently held on the leave form. Award payments for awards established by the University of Northern British Columbia are suspended at the start of the leave of absence for up to a maximum of 12 months (or 18 months for parental leave) and resume upon the student’s return, provided the student continues to meet all requirements for the award. For awards outside of the University, award payment during a leave is governed by the terms and conditions of leaves established by the donor or granting agency. Please ensure you are liaising with the Graduate Enrolment and Scholarship Advisor if you have any current internal or external awards.

Types of Leave

Personal Leave: In the event a student encounters personal circumstances that have an impact on their ability to continue their studies, a maximum of 12 months leave may be taken over the duration of the degree program. Students should consult with their supervisor(s) and include the rationale for their leave request on the form (or in an attached document where more space is required).

Medical or Compassionate Leave: Where circumstances warrant, a student may request medical or compassionate leave with appropriate supporting documentation. For a medical leave, a doctor’s note is required. For a compassionate leave, an explanation of the circumstances leading to the need for a leave should be provided.

Parental Leave: A student with parenting responsibilities for a newborn or newly-adopted child is entitled to a leave period of 18 months in each instance. No supporting documentation is required for this type of request, including for pregnancy related matters (such as an early start to parental leave).

Professional Leave: A student may be eligible to suspend their program of study for a period up to 12 months in order to pursue work experience or employment in a field related to their area of study. A student’s supervisor and Program Chair must support a professional leave request and can provide guidance on what documentation they may require for review of the decision as available documentation will vary.


This form is handled by staff at the program level, in the Office of Graduate Administration and in the Office of the Registrar for the purposes of processing. Additionally, the supervisor(s), Program Chair and Dean will review the information provided on (and with) this form. In the event a student’s request and supporting documentation is of a confidential nature, students may contact the Office of Graduate Administration for guidance on options if they have concerns.

International Students

There may be immigration repercussions for international students requiring a leave of absence. Information about conditions for holding a study permit and the potential impact of a leave of absence can be found on the Government of Canada website. Students should contact the International Office for answers to any questions. Leave requests cannot be backdated and may not exceed 150 days.

Student Services