Academic Study Leave or Sabbatical: Contested Concepts
The purpose of this paper is to provide clarification of the concepts of academic study leave and the sabbatical, which are somewhat contested in the increasingly complex, managerialist and performative higher education context. A critical review of academic literature is employed to help clarify our understanding of the concepts, but also to identify potential contradictions. In addition, examples are provided, drawn from university web pages. The analysis identifies similarities and differences between the two concepts suggesting complimentary and competing meanings. The paper illuminates the shifting concept of the sabbatical, a term rooted in religious history, to more contemporary notions of academic study leave. This shift is not without difficulty given the complexity and increasing ambiguity associated with academic work. Defining characteristics of sabbatical/academic study leave can help provide clearer operational definitions to assist academic managers and faculty better manage and enhance these two subtly different experiences. This is of growing importance as scholars are confronted with escalating demands for publications in top ranked journals, which are increasingly used as objective measures in the bludgeoning use of performance management systems, to the potential detriment to other dimensions of academic practice, particularly teaching and enhancing the student experience.
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