Taking a sabbatical or career break can be an important step for academics wishing to develop their careers.
A sabbatical allows more committed time for research and publishing articles, which could result in a ratings boost in the next research assessment exercise, and prove popular with your university.
Qualifying for a sabbatical depends on university policy, and ultimately it is down to approaching the head of department to discuss the idea. The time in service requirement, usually between five and seven years, acts as a kind of guarantee to the university that you will return after your year out.
If you are considering taking a sabbatical it is wise to create a package of ideas to present to your head of department.
Sabbaticals abroad are quite well established. A British lecturer "swaps" with a lecturer from a foreign university, with similar research goals, for one academic year.
This kind of sabbatical is a great opportunity to share research and teaching techniques abroad, which could have personal and professional benefits. It is a great way to make new contacts and gain new skills.
Whatever you plan to do, your head of department's concern will be what the university will gain from your absence. You need to be clear about your research and publishing plans, and reassure them you will be working for the greater good of the establishment.
Think about who will do your teaching and marking while you are away, and cover off all corners of concern. The university may have to pay for teaching cover for you, so demonstrate you are aware of your responsibilities.
Show that you aim to raise the RAE rating of the department with your sabbatical work and give a rough idea of the papers you hope to publish while absent.
The other hurdle you may need to overcome is resistance from your colleagues. The time requirement before going on sabbatical should go some way to soothing ruffled feathers, as it shows your previous dedication and years of hard toil.
Remember, the department ultimately functions as a collective, so make sure you consult colleagues and take into account their feelings. It may help to show them how your work will benefit them in the long run and that you appreciate their support.
Consider the timing of your sabbatical. In other words, choose your moment to make the request. For example, if you have been asked to take on more responsibility without an increase in salary, taking a sabbatical could be used as a bargaining tool.
Another favourable time might be when a junior colleague joins the department and would benefit from more teaching hours. Or when you have achieved a large amount of work, such as setting up a course, which can run while you are away.
Carefully planned and thoughtfully presented sabbatical requests are unlikely to be refused. Taking a year out is a well-known perk of the job, and if you show dedication and ambition for the department you are likely to find the process easy to tackle.
The good news is that the option of taking some time out from teaching is no longer exclusive to university staff.
This summer, a report from the Institute of Education, in conjunction with VSO, said allowing schoolteachers to take extended career breaks could dramatically improve commitment, motivation and retention.
According to the institute, as many as 52% of new teachers leave the profession within just three years, but over the past 10 years only 13% of teachers who took time out working overseas with VSO left.
Last year, the Department for Education and Skills launched a three-year sabbatical scheme for experienced teachers. The scheme received strong support from the profession and is supported by the General Teaching Council and teaching unions.
It is hoped the scheme will allow teachers to take a significant period of time away from the classroom to enhance their own learning and effectiveness, and bring benefits back to their pupils and schools.
The scheme works on a voluntary basis and is open to experienced teachers working in challenging schools in England, defined as those where 50% or more of the children are eligible for free school meals.
To qualify you must be a teacher, with five years service (full or part-time), in a challenging school. You may take one sabbatical in the three-year period, during which time you remain on the payroll of the school and within the teachers' pension scheme.
Your sabbatical can be up to six-weeks and there are a range of options to choose from.
During your break you can take up an organised placement in the business, public or voluntary sector. VSO provides teaching sabbaticals in Africa and Asia.
Alternatively, you can choose to work in another school or for a community project, or undertake small-scale research.
If none of those appeal, you can opt for some other form of personal or professional development.
There are, however, a limited number of sabbaticals available in each local education authority - one per eligible school over the three-year period.
The headteacher and governing body decide who will be awarded a sabbatical. If the headteacher applies, the governing body makes the decision.
Again, the most important thing to show when making a request for a break is how it will benefit the school. And remember to take into consideration cost, colleagues and your responsibility to the pupils.