Third of academics employed on teaching-only contracts – Hesa

The Higher Education Statistics Agency figures show that the increasing number of women in professorships stalled last year

The number of lecturers employed on teaching-only has grown in the five years to 2021, from 26% of academic staff to 32%.

The figures are from the upcoming Higher Education Staff Data collection, compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The full dataset covering the 2020/21 academic year is published in February.

The figures released today show that there are 224,530 academic staff employed in the sector, an increase of less than a per cent on the year previous. In contrast, the number of students in HE increased by 9% in the same time frame, to 2,751,865.

The Hesa figures show that just less than a third of academics are employed on teaching-only contracts, up from just around a quarter of academics five years ago. The figures are relatively unchanged on those from last year.

The numbers on fixed-term contracts fell slightly, both in absolute and percentage terms, by nearly a percentage point, representative of around 2,000 fewer fix-term staff. Those on zero-hours contracts remain a small percentage of the overall staff headcount, 3,650 staff in total, equivalent to 1.6%. Academics on “atypical” contracts, which include those in impermanent, flexible or multi-agency employment, have declined as a share of the overall academic community, from over 66,000 in 2019/20 to 59,000 in 2020/21.

The percentage of female professors increased by one percentage point year-on-year from 2013/14 to 2019/20 – but appears to have stalled this year, with the figure remaining at 28% for 2020/21. Female academics employed in other senior roles has gradually increased from 33% in 2013/14 to 40%. Women are far more likely to be employed part-time: they make up 49% of full-time staff and 66% of part-time academics.

Figures on the ethnic background of academics are incomplete because Hesa does not have figures on all staff. Of the 21,000 academics employed on professorship level that Hesa have ethnicity figures, 11% were Black, Asian or minoritised ethnic (BME). Sixty-five percent of the BME professors were Asian.

A 2020 report for the University and College Union by Nick Megoran and Olivia Mason described the proliferation of teaching-only contracts as “dehumanising” because staff miss the opportunity to develop research interests, which are often crucial for long-term career prospects in academia. 

Megoran and Mason accused universities of “brazenly” flouting the principle enshrined in the Magna Charta Universitatum, of which most are signatories, that “teaching and research in universities should be inseparable”. 


Read more: Levelling up: FE, skills and R&D take centre stage in government white paper

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