You can get an impression of academic staff numbers in the UK by looking at a site like jobs.ac.uk and following trends informally as to who is hiring and in what sort of roles. This is a useful way of checking which institutions in your field have received research awards and are able to advertise for new staff or students. An overview of what is going on in the sector is also useful in order to better understand its recruitment needs and its significance to the broader economy.
HEFCE, the body that allocates public money to UK universities, has a statistical service called HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency). This agency publishes data on staff and student performance so that interested parties can monitor the performance of each institution in a variety of areas, such as student recruitment and retention.
However, it is their statistics on staffing of HE institutions that most interest job seekers. The data covers the academic year 2009-10.
On 1 December 2009 there were 387,430 staff employed in the HE sector, of whom 181,595 (46.9%) were academic professionals.
253,960 staff were employed on full-time contracts and 133,460 on part-time contracts. 38.3% of full-time staff and 54.5% of part-time staff were female.
Of 181,595 academic staff employed on 1 December 2009 79,900 (44.0%) were female.
17,375 academic staff were employed as Professors, of whom 3,320 (19.1%) were female.
120,225 (66.2%) of academic staff were employed on open-ended or permanent contracts and 61,375 (33.8%) were employed on fixed term contracts.
What do these figures mean?
These statistics tell us something very interesting about the gender balance of those working in UK universities. Just under half (44.0%) of all academic staff are female. This number continues to increase year by year, but the amount of female workers differs markedly between different departments - Chemistry, for example, is more male dominated, while English literature has more women. Looking at university staff overall, female staff dominate the part-time work force (whether that’s down to personal choice, or the balance of work/family life). This statistic raises issues about the benefits and status afforded to part time versus full time workers.
In the most senior academic roles women lag far behind, representing only 19.1% of professors. Hopefully this will change as more women come up through the ranks, but it is an area that needs to be monitored. There is an issue here about women reaching the notorious ‘glass ceiling’: being unable to push through to the most senior roles because of prejudice or being perceived as not completely dedicated to the job due to family or other commitments. The number of academic staff on fixed term contracts is rising - it’s now one-third of workers (33.8%). This reflects a greater flexibility in the job market, allowing people to move around more often. It can also have a negative impact, though, as fixed term contracts do not always come with the benefits of permanent working arrangements.
Academic job roles:
Academic employment function (breakdown of full and part time):
Teaching only: 8360 full time 38115 part time 46475 total
Teaching & research: 75220 full time 18665 part time 93885 total
Research only: 33700 full time 6700 part time 40470 total
Neither teaching nor research: 650 full time 120 part time 770 total
These statistics show that most academic staff are engaged in both teaching and research, or at least are employed in roles that nominally require both to be done. Of the 93, 885 employed to do both roles, 75,220 are full time. Many employees find that full-time work offers the salary and benefits they desire from a permanent position. For those who wish to work part time for personal reasons, though, it means that jobs combining teaching and research are rare.
The statistics for teaching-only roles are most interesting. They indicate that the vast majority of those solely hired to teach are part time members of staff - very few people are employed full time to do this. We can deduce that most institutions perceive full time roles to involve both teaching and research, whereas part time work is associated with teaching only. This can lead to problems within institutions if part-time staff are excluded from the opportunity of doing research (or are not recognised by their department as researchers). It can also have an impact on the student experience as full-time staff members have to alleviate their teaching duties in order to carry out research. Therefore, the majority of students will be taught by part-time teachers.
This is reinforced if we look at the statistics regarding temporary work:
Terms of academic employment:
Open-ended/permanent: 87420 full time 32800 part time 120225 total
Fixed-term contract: 30505 full time 30865 part time 61375 total
This clearly shows that those on permanent contracts are far more likely to work full time, and those on fixed term contracts equally as likely to work part-time.
If you are interested in delving further into this material please go directly to the HESA web