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Please note that we have changed the methodology we use to calculate
higher education workforce statistics. The methodology used is consistent with HESA’s ‘Staff in Higher Education’ statistical releases, but it means that we are unable to present data for academic years prior to 2012-13 and statistics from our previous staff analyses cannot be compared directly with those here.

Key findings

There were 168,000 academic staff and 169,000 professional and support (PSS) staff employed at English higher education institutions (HEIs) in 2015-16. 

Since 2012-13 there has been an increase of 13,400 (8.7 per cent) in academic staff, while the number of non-academic staff has grown by 9,400 (5.9 per cent). 

Characteristics of staff and their contracts

There is substantially less gender and ethnic diversity in senior positions than in the workforce as a whole. In 2015-16, 50 per cent of research assistants were female, but at professor level the proportion of female staff is 24 per cent.  Similarly, 20 per cent of research assistants were BME compared with just 9 per cent of professors. 

Fixed-term contracts are widely used across the sector, but are more common for academic staff. In 2015-16, 36 per cent of academic staff were on fixed-term contracts compared with 15 per cent of professional and support staff. Fixed-term contracts are most common among younger staff, especially those on research-only contracts, with 55 per cent of academic staff aged under 40 being on fixed-term contracts. 

Approximately one third (34 per cent) of academic staff are on part-time contracts, but these are more common in some subject areas. 51 per cent of academics in modern foreign languages work part-time compared with only 20 per cent in STEM subjects. 

In 2014-15, 83 per cent of vice-chancellors had a salary greater than £150,000. This increased to 93 per cent in 2015-16.

Nationality of staff

The number of staff from outside the UK has increased by 25 per cent since 2012-13. In 2015-16, 29 per cent (48,800) of academic staff were from outside the UK.

The countries from which the largest number of academic staff come are Italy (4,710), Germany (4,640), the USA (3,335) and China (3,235). 

International staff are on average younger, more likely to be employed on fixed-term and research-only contracts, and more likely to work at high-tariff HEIs. 

International staff make up a majority of academic staff in modern foreign languages (MFL). 41 per cent of staff in MFL are from the EU with a further 16 per cent from outside the EU.

Atypical contracts

Atypical contracts are defined as those members of staff whose contracts are those with working arrangements that are not permanent, involve complex employment relationships or involve work away from the supervision of the normal work provider. Data is only collected for academic staff on atypical contracts. 

The number of staff on atypical contracts in 2015-16 was 61,000. 

Atypical contracts are most commonly held by young staff. In 2015-16, 34 per cent (20,600 staff) of atypical staff were aged under 30. In high-tariff HEIs this was 48 per cent.

These themes are explored further in Higher Education in England and in our blog 'The Italian jobs'.

Contact us

If you have any problems with the graphs or any feedback, please email qapt@hefce.ac.uk.

Page last updated 13 July 2017