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Has Matt Cutts returned or is his sabbatical permanent?
University professors are encouraged to take sabbaticals
In certain industries they are common
Is this an American thing?
A sabbatical — typically a three, six, or 12-month leave from work meant to allow you to recharge or try something new without losing your job — is more common in countries like the US, the United Kingdom, and Australia. They are most common among academics and healthcare professionals. Less than a third of US employers allow sabbaticals, according to the 2012 National Study of Employers by the Families and Work Institute.
Calling something a sabbatical doesn't make it a sabbatical. Could just be a paid leave of indefinite duration.
I know a lot of people in a lot of different industries and professions, including professors etc, and I cannot recall anyone ever taking a sabbatical
I'm not convinced we'll see Matt back in the same way with the same webmaster outreach we all got to know so well.Google's Webmaster Outreach Changed Hands From Matt Cutts [webmasterworld.com]