A leave of absence for no more than two semesters may be granted because of medical conditions, full-time employment relevant to completing the degree, receipt of an external research award, or other acceptable reasons as judged by the academic dean of The Graduate School.

A student is eligible to request a leave of absence only if s/he is in good academic standing and has completed at least one semester in the current graduate degree program at Duke. No more than two semesters of leave, in total, may be granted throughout a student’s degree program.

Requests for medical leaves of absence must be supported by a letter to the academic dean from a treating medical practitioner. Return from such leave must be similarly supported by evidence, such as a letter from a treating practitioner, that the student is ready to return to the rigors of graduate study. If an emergency medical leave must be taken once a semester has begun, it would be retroactive to the start of the term. Formal leaves of absence are not applicable to summer term.

Important Considerations

  • Time limitations that pertain to the various degrees and requirements, and the completion of courses on which a grade of Incomplete (I) was earned, are not waived during leaves of absence, other than those of medical necessity and as approved by the academic dean.
  • Students contemplating leaves of absence should be aware that, for financial purposes, all guarantees of financial support are calculated from the date of initial matriculation. For example, if a graduate program has stated that a student will be supported through the fifth year of graduate study and the student subsequently takes a leave of absence for one of those years, the student would forfeit a year of institutional support. Departments and programs are encouraged, but not required, to offer a deferral of funding to a subsequent term in the case of medical leaves of absence.
  • Foreign students on visas should consult Duke Visa Services for the implications of a leave of absence on their legal status in this country.

Requesting a Leave of Absence

To request a leave of absence, the student must complete the request form (PDF), obtain the DGS's signature, and submit the signed form to the academic dean for consideration prior to the beginning of the semester for which the leave is requested.