This article is more than 1 year old

HESA spring: academic staff movement, and pay

How many academic staff left and joined your provider last year? How much are academic staff paid? David Kernohan reviews the data
This article is more than 1 year old

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

Providers change size and shape all the time.

They change to reflect actual and projected student numbers, change based on government priorities and regulatory incentives, and changed based on financial pressures.

All of this has an impact on staff of all kinds, but in HESA data (because of a decision to exempt English providers from returning data on the large number of other people who help make universities work) it is easiest to see a change in academic staff numbers.

We’ve had two unusual years of data – reflecting a time when the future was even more uncertain than usual, and student numbers grew (or shrank) sharply for reasons outside of the control of providers. For this reason the annual growth (or shrinkage) in academic staff offers a glimpse into what institutional priorities may be.


Firstly we look at the changes in academic staff, by contract mode, over the past year (between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 data returns).

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Rather than any particular trends by institution type – which you may have expected given the selectivity skew to pandemic student number growth – we can see the King’s College London has an extra 175 full time staff over last year whereas Cambridge has 80 less. The University of the Arts has taken on an extra 1,330 part time staff, whereas City has 800 less than in the previous academic year.

I’ve also made a dashboard to let you see gains and losses by year back to 2014-15

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And one for the annual total of academic staff.

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In each case you just need to use the filter to select your provider of interest – the colours show part and full time staff.

Other work

We also have (some) data on where staff work prior to holding their current academic role, and on where those who have left such a role now work. The data quality isn’t ideal – especially for leavers there are large swathes of “not knowns” – but it is still possible to see some fascinating patterns. For instance, the most popular prior activity for someone in a research only role is “student”, whereas teaching only roles tend to go to staff from the private sector.

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It’s a contentious time to be thinking about staff pay, given the current ongoing dispute concerning the national pay spine. Each of HESA’s categories in this visualisation covers 10 scale points, and for this reason you can see an annual uplift in the categories themselves.

This dashboard is best used to examine pay disparities on campus – by sex, and by contract type and mode of employment.

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Again, you can choose your provider via the filter – there’s also the option to filter by contract level (professor, senior academics, others), and by contract type (teaching, research, both, neither). Here we see the classic professorial contract (involving both teaching and research) as better paid, particularly in older providers.

6 responses to “HESA spring: academic staff movement, and pay

  1. Just looking at the graph for “annual total of academic staff” – I think this is all staff, not just academics. This certainly appears to be the case for Northumbria and Nottingham. If so then does this apply to all of the other data sets?

      1. Hi chaps – the purple chart you are referring to was displaying unexpectedly large totals due to the peculiar way that HESA had the designed the data. I’ve implemented a work-around so the data looks more normal.

        I can confirm that the data shows only academic staff numbers.

  2. Is anyone going to take a closer look at all the academics, predominantly based outside the UK (mainly the US) on 20% contracts at some universities? Preparations are already underway for the next REF I believe!! Is this a good way to spend tax payers money that funds UK universities? The 20% contract REF rule has to be strictly monitored to ensure a level playing field. Any such contracts for academics based outside the UK must reflect a deep, meaningful and sustained contractual relationship.

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