MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Leave of Absence

The GSBS allows students to request an official Leave of Absence (LOA) for up to one year.  During an official LOA, the student cannot be paid by the advisor or the GSBS as a student, but the student may work at outside employment.  Students may request an official LOA from the Office of Academic Affairs at the GSBS.  Students must state a date when they will return to the GSBS.  If they do not return by that date, and they have not been granted an extension of the LOA, they will be considered to have withdrawn from the GSBS. Students funded by GSBS are funded for the specified term for continuous enrollment.  If a student takes a LOA during the time funded by GSBS, no guarantee can be made that the GSBS-funded time lost during the LOA can be "re-captured" once the student returns to their studies.

Students may return prior to the date indicated on the LOA form.  Students returning from LOA do not need to re-enter the Admissions process, but they must notify the Office of Academic Affairs that they are returning at least 30 days prior to the first day of class of the semester in which they wish to re-enroll.  Extensions of the official LOA for a maximum of up to one additional year may be requested through the Office of Academic Affairs, and must have the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School.  Requests for extensions must be submitted at least 30 days before the end of the initial leave.

In cases where a student on leave of absence has separated from the thesis/dissertation advisor, the student must identify a faculty member who is willing to serve as the new thesis/dissertation advisor prior to the student’s re-enrollment in the GSBS. The new advisor and a plan for completing the thesis/dissertation must also be approved by the GSBS Academic Standards Committee.

In cases where a student is returning from a leave of absence that was initiated after, or coincident with, being placed on academic probation, the student must submit a plan for remedying the academic issue and completing the degree program at least 60 days prior to returning to the GSBS.  This plan must be approved by the Academic Standards Committee before the student may enroll again.

An official LOA request petition must be filled out by the student and turned into the Office of Academic Affairs.  As a part of this form, numerous signatures are required from various offices around the Texas Medical Center, indicating that the appropriate institutional individuals and offices approve the request for a LOA with non-registered status. 

Note that any student who fails to register for any semester and who has not been granted an official leave of absence or been approved as a non-registered candidate for a degree will be considered to have withdrawn from GSBS. Once having withdrawn, a student who wishes to continue formal studies must apply and be readmitted to GSBS.


Students receive their stipends as employees of one of the GSBS parent institutions, each of which has their own employment policies and procedures with which the student must comply.  UTHealth and MDACC each have their own policies on several issues, such as the amount of time graduate students are permitted to be away from their lab or workplace for purposes such as sick leave, vacation, family-related leave, etc.  The GSBS policy on time away from the lab is deferred to the policy of the institution at which the student is employed.  When a student joins the lab/group of a faculty member, the student should apprise him/herself of these policies.  In all cases, however, the students should remember that he/she is employed by the advisor, and the advisor sets the standards for work ethic and policies of the lab, including attendance standards and expectations.  The student and advisor should always explicitly discuss the advisor's expectations before they make a mutual commitment.  In all cases, it is the student's responsibility to request time away from the lab (or expected lab activities; in advance,when possible) and to keep the advisor, or the advisor's designee, informed in a timely manner of any unanticipated absences, e.g., for illness, family emergencies, etc.

Students who wish to discuss a leave of absence and/or obtain the form and instructions to request a leave should contact the GSBS Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.