Interruptions to Registration Status


Personal time off, leaves of absence and withdrawal

Temerty Faculty of Medicine guidelines on graduate student personal time off

From the Office of the Vice-Dean, Graduate and Life Science Education (Adapted from the Institute of Medical Science guidelines on time off for students.)

Within the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, it is recognized that many graduate students conduct their research almost exclusively within a laboratory setting, where they may or may not have control over their hours and the flow of the research program. Students are not employees and therefore have no rights to employee benefits, including paid vacation entitlement. However, it is recognized that for graduate students to reach their full potential and achieve academic excellence and maintain a healthy work-life balance; they benefit from some personal time off or ‘vacation.’ There are SGS policies and procedures in place for students who require a leave of absence for parental, personal or medical reasons. However, there are no University or SGS policies regarding graduate student personal time off / ‘vacation.’ The following guidelines for faculty and graduate students provide a framework for reasonable expectations. As a general rule, students might reasonably expect up to three weeks (15 working days) per year in personal time off, plus statutory holidays, under the following conditions:

  • Time off provisions should be negotiated, clearly and transparently, between the supervisor and the graduate student.

  • Time off should not compromise the research program and/or the student’s graduate studies. Students must ensure that laboratory work, experimentation and other time-sensitive activities are either completed or arrangements made for others to continue ongoing work.

  • Consideration should be given to when the building or lab is closed (i.e. winter holidays) when taking time off.

  • Time-sensitive deadlines (i.e. award applications, abstract submissions) must be taken into consideration.

  • Time off cannot be carried forward from year to year.

  • Time off should be requested as far in advance as possible.

  • The student and supervisor should maintain contact as appropriate if the student is away for an extended period.

  • Given that students receive remuneration as a stipend, not salary, the stipend continues, unaffected by this personal time off.

  • Attendance at social activities within the academic community (departmental picnic etc.) or scientific meetings does not fall under the category of personal time off.

Vacation time should be submitted in writing to the Supervisor and a record kept of days away from lab each year.

Sick leaves or absences for health reasons must also be documented by the student, communicated with the Supervisor, and do not fall under the category of personal time off.

Leave of Absence

Graduate students may experience a temporary or permanent interruption during their studies. If it may be necessary to take time out from the graduate program, the students should make an appointment to see the Graduate Coordinator as soon as possible. An official leave of absence is not included in the time limit for completion of the degree, and a student is exempt from paying fees for the duration of the leave.

A student may apply to the Graduate Coordinator for a one-session to three-session leave during the program of study for the following reasons:

  • Serious health or personal problems which temporarily make it impossible to continue in the program, or

  • Parental leave by either parent at the time of pregnancy, birth or adoption, and/or to provide full-time care during the child’s first year. Parental leave must be completed within twelve months of the date of birth or custody. Where both parents are graduate students taking leave, the combined total number of sessions may not exceed four sessions. Students should consult with their supervisors on this point, as some funding agencies have provisions to allow for paid parental leave.

Leaves should coincide with the start and end of a session. A leave must therefore begin on the first day of term for four, eight or twelve months. The degree time limit will be extended by the number of sessions that the student is on leave. If it is necessary for a leave to begin in mid-session, it is necessary to contact the Director of Student Services at the School of Graduate Studies to make special arrangements.

While on leave, students are temporarily withdrawn from the graduate program and do not pay fees for the leave period. Please consult the Fees section of the SGS website for more information on fees for students on a Leave of Absence. If a student returns from leave and is immediately ready to defend the thesis, fees are charged for the session(s) in which the student was on leave.

The Research and Health Science Education office in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, jointly with the department, provides a Leave of Absence (LOA) Stipendiary Fund to support students for one term who have requested an LOA due to health issues. Please contact the Learning Strategist to apply for this Fund. Parental Grants are also available to students who are taking a parental leave. Visit the School of Graduate Studies website for details.

During a leave, a student may not make demands on the resources of the University, such as using library facilities, attending courses or expecting advice from a supervisor/supervisory committee. Research Reader privileges are available at the library for a fee, and a student may make individual arrangements to consult with faculty and supervisors. Students can opt into receiving access to Student Life, Hart House and Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education services for a fee.

Students are not eligible for graduate awards during a leave. Note that award granting agencies, such as CIHR and NSERC, have their own leave policies for award holders. Students must consult with the appropriate funding agency.

If a student requires a leave, it is necessary to complete the Request for Leave of Absence form available on the SGS website and to submit it to the Graduate Coordinator for consideration. 

Guidance on Internships

Some educational programs feature (or facilitate) internships, co-ops, or placements (hereafter referred to collectively as “internships”). These are periods of work experience relevant to the field of study. Depending on the academic program and the host, these periods can vary in duration from a few weeks (e.g. during a summer break) to over a year. They can be paid or unpaid; full-time or part-time. The Department understands the value that internships have for student career goals. They often lead to future employment.

Internships within Molecular Genetics MSc/PhD program

The Molecular Genetics MSc/PhD program (the “Program”) does not have a formal internship feature. In fact, such opportunities, wherein the student is hired and/or paid (usually by a company), will not be considered within the Program. Instead a leave of absence (LOA) is required.

The Program, and the responsibilities agreed to by both the thesis supervisor and the student, are inconsistent with full-time internships or co-op placements. First, the program itself was designed, approved, and continues to be funded as a continuous, full-time endeavor. Second, the research stipend and tuition are typically paid by the supervisor using grant funding that can only be used to compensate researchers working on the project. Students holding independent research funding (e.g. from NSERC or CIHR) should verify impacts of an internship, as some awards will assume a full-time research and study program.

It should also be considered that students in the Program typically work as part of an integrated research team, continued success of which depends on full commitment of each team member. Even when individual projects are largely independent, the overall funding of a laboratory will depend on timely completion of individual projects.

As well, intellectual property policies of the institution apply to the Program. Use of research information should follow standard academic practices. Data and project-specific knowledge derived from the student’s thesis project may not necessarily be available for use in an internship.

In order to minimize impact to both research labs and degree progress, it is expected that students that intend to pursue internships follow these guidelines:

  1. To avoid compromising progress on the thesis project, a full-time internship should ideally be no longer than one term, and arranged during a time that does not compromise the research – e.g. while a paper is submitted, while awaiting a key result from a collaborator, or just after the “permission to write” meeting, at which point all experiments should be completed. Students are also encouraged to take summer internships, as there are fewer structured departmental and program activities.
  2. Students must discuss the internship with their supervisor and with the Learning Strategist, at least one term (four months) in advance of the start of the intended internship, so that it can be planned in a way that facilitates progress towards the degree and lab functioning.
  3. Internships should be pursued only after the student has achieved PhD candidacy (i.e. completed all coursework, including seminar attendance and presentations – normally, only students beyond their fourth academic year will meet this expectation).
  4. Students doing an internship are expected to take a Leave of Absence (LOA), unless they have completed all degree requirements except for the defense (see below). The LOA is granted by SGS, not the Department. Please note that SGS policy currently interprets personal hardship very broadly especially when in line with department and academic goals. Learn more about LOA formsPlease indicate that the LOA is being requested for the purpose of an Internship when completing the form.
  5. Students must be familiar with the terms of the LOA:
    1. Students will not have access to their supervisor’s lab, or their supervisor, the library, gym, other campus facilities, etc. during the LOA. Students on LOA can, however, pay to opt-in to certain services as described on the LOA form.
    2. The stipend and tuition will be suspended during the LOA, and the time on leave will not be counted as part of the length of the degree.
    3. The LOA assures students that their place in the academic program will be preserved, but students cannot expect that important lab project(s) will be put completely on hold. Thus, an unfinished thesis project may be impacted by research developments that occur during the LOA. Students should discuss the implications of the LOA on the project with the supervisor.
  6. Students doing an internship should be aware of conflict-of-interest (CoI) rules. If the internship is in the same area as their PhD project, they must discuss with the supervisor what aspects of unpublished work in the laboratory should be considered confidential and of potential value to the lab and the University. Students should be aware that violating CoI and/or confidentiality presents a potential liability for the company or organization sponsoring the internship.
  7. Because Leaves of Absence are intended as a pause from academic progress, work generated during an internship cannot be incorporated into students’ theses. Theses should only include work produced under the supervision of U of T graduate faculty members during terms in which the student is registered.
  8. Students who have completed all degree requirements except for the defense can forfeit the stipend and start a job. Students taking an internship under such circumstances should not take a Leave of Absence, because it would prevent them from graduating.
  1. International students should be aware that there may be visa, immigration and post- graduation issues relevant to an LOA and paid employment outside the University. Please ensure you meet with an Immigration Advisor at the Centre for International Experience prior to requesting an LOA.
  2. If you have government student loans (e.g., OSAP), a leave of absence can impact your funding and your repayment status. Contact the University Registrar’s Office to discuss your options.
  3. The above guidelines do not apply to students who engage in external industry- facing collaborative work as part of their research toward their dissertation. For example, some students may receive a MITACS funded grant as part of an agreement between their host lab and a biotech company that involves a period spent working with the industry partner. Students in these situations do not need to apply for a LOA. They will typically receive their normal stipend, must pay tuition, and should not be formally paid or hired by the partner (although additional housing costs while visiting the industry partner are usually covered by the grant or the partner). Students in these situations must remain current in terms of seminars, coursework, committee meetings, and other aspects of their degree program. Intellectual property concerns are usually negotiated between the head of the lab and the industry partner (with the guidance of the funding agency and the University) and the terms of the agreement should be clearly communicated to the student.

Additional references

For more information on intellectual property ownership, students and supervisors in the Program are encouraged to review the intellectual property experiential learning modules

Students and supervisors are also encouraged to review the following webpages: Working Group on Graduate Student Involvement in Research Opportunities with Industry, Findings & Recommendations and the Researcher’s Guide to Industry Partnerships

Termination of Enrollment

A student’s enrollment in the program may be terminated without obtaining a degree under the following circumstances:

  1. Failure to achieve the goals set by the supervisory committee within a reasonable period of time (see “Lack of Sufficient Progress” on pg. 19); and upon unanimous decision by the Supervisory Committee.

  2. Failing any course in the program

  3. Two negative votes at a Reclassification exam, MSc Oral exam. PhD Qualification or PhD Oral exam.

The student’s stipend will be terminated upon termination of enrollment. 

Lapsed Candidacy

Students must be registered annually until all degree requirements are met. Students who fail to register and do not have an approved leave may only apply to re-register if they are within the maximum time allowed for the degree program. Students wishing to re-register must apply to the Department of Molecular Genetics, and the Department and the School of Graduate Studies must approve the reinstatement. Reinstated students will be required to pay fees owing for any sessions in which they did not register.