Gap Year

A gap year is time out to travel between life stages. It is also known as a sabbatical, time off, time out and a year out, referring to a period of time (not necessarily 12 months) in which people disengage from curricular education and/or work and undertake activities such as traveling, volunteering or working abroad.

The practice of taking time out developed in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. During this time, a student might travel, engage in volunteer work overseas or undertake a working holiday abroad.

In 1967, Nicholas Maclean-Bristol set up the educational volunteering charity Project Trust and sent three volunteers to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

In 1973, Graham "Skroo" Turner set up the company Topdeck, one of the first tour operators.

In 1978, the Prince of Wales and Colonel John Blashford-Snell began what is now known as Raleigh International by launching Operation Drake, an expedition voyage around the world following Sir Francis Drake'sroute.

In the United States, the deferred year idea was promoted by Cornelius H. Bull, in 1980.


In 2010, a deferred year increased among school, college and university leavers, as this is seen as an attractive option for future career development. Conversely, 2011 saw a decline in the number of prospective students from the UK taking gap years due to the competitiveness of courses and the imminent rise in university fees.

A year out has grown very popular among students in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A trend for a year out is to travel, volunteer and working abroad, which may include participating in international education programs that combine language study, homestays, cultural immersion, community service, and independent study.