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University of Virginia UVA Arts & Sciences Default

Guidelines on Faculty Buy-outs and Top-offs

(Updated: February 11, 2015)

Faculty members sometimes receive grants or fellowships that cover a substantial part but not all—of a semester or year’s salary.  Below are guidelines that govern how we respond to requests to be relieved of teaching and other duties in exchange for grant funds of these types.  The Dean’s Office must approve all proposed course buyouts, and will consider only significant and prestigious external grants for a top-off. Requests for buyouts and top-offs should be prepared by the faculty member and forwarded to the Associate Divisional Dean by the Chair with the Chair’s rationale for approval by March 15 for the fall term and by October 15 for the spring.

Buyouts of one course

The price of a buyout of one course is one-sixth of a faculty member’s nine-month salary and fringe benefits at the full faculty rate, or one-half of the annual nine-month salary plus fringe divided by the faculty member’s annual course load—whichever is larger.

So if a faculty member whose standard load is 2-2 earns $100,000 a year, the cost of a buyout of one course will be 16.67% of $127,700 (salary plus benefits at the 2014-15 rate), or $21,288.  A faculty member with the same salary from a department with a 1-1 standard course load will need grants equal to 25% of salary and fringe, or $31,925.

Please keep in mind as well the following conditions:

  • A faculty member buying out of a course will be expected to participate fully in service and administrative duties; the buy-out is strictly for teaching and must not be construed as approval for a full-time appointment to research. The policy outlined in this document is for partial release from coursework while a person is in residence at the University and fulfilling all other duties, except for the one course.
  • If a faculty member’s course load is not symmetric (i.e., not constant across semesters), a course buy-out cannot be done for the semester in which the course load is lighter.  For example, if a faculty member teaches one course in one semester and two courses in the other, a one-course buy-out must be for the semester in which the higher load is taught.
  • A faculty member may buy out of no more than one course per year, except when approved for a full semester release under conditions spelled out below in the next section.
  • A course buy-out cannot be used in conjunction with an appointment to research leave such as a Sesqui and Endowed Chair leave, or educational leave, administrative leave, and leave without pay.  

Semester or Full-year Buyouts and Top-offs

The price of a buyout for an academic year or one semester is 100% of the salary plus fringe for that period.  In this case, the buyout is considered to excuse the faculty member not only from teaching but also from service for the period of the buyout, and residence at the University of Virginia is not required.

Upon request, the Dean’s Office may consider “topping off” the external grant in order to allow the faculty member to spend the semester working on his or her research full-time, but only if the external grant is significant and prestigious, as defined below.

  • The top-off will be no larger than the size of the grant or the sum needed to bring salary up to 100% of the faculty member’s normal salary for a semester or academic year, whichever is less.  So if a faculty member earning $100,000 ($127,700 with fringe) receives a grant providing $30,000, the top-off will be no more than $30,000 inclusive of fringe benefits and the period of approved educational leave will be only one semester.  If the faculty member’s grant comes to $80,000 (more than 50% of academic year salary and fringe), the top-off may be up to $47,700 toward the cost of salary and fringe benefits.
  • The grant must also be competitive, well-known for the rigor of its selection process, and have a tradition of awarding grants to excellent scholars sufficient to ensure that the faculty member’s receipt of this award will bring significant prestige to the College.
  • Each year, after the March 15 deadline for receipt of requests, the College will convene a faculty committee to consider all requests for top-offs and allocate a budget for this purpose. Among those likely to be considered prestigious by this committee are the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation grants, NEH grants, Sloan Foundation grants, ACLS fellowships, National Humanities Center, Fulbrights, and Packards.

For those applications recommended by the faculty committee and approved by the Dean, the resulting courses lost to grants or fellowships should be recorded on the L&R spreadsheet for the department.   The status of the L&R spreadsheet will determine if funds for a replacement course will be available.