HESA spring 2024: Staff, in outline

It's HESA spring - but we had a bad winter

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

There may be a cold snap across most of the UK, but in one sense it is already spring.

Yes – the first HESA 2022-23 data has just dropped: the “statistical bulletin” (what we used to know as the first statistical release) for Staff data. We get the full release on 30 January (including provider data) so the this as an early glance at the state of the sector on 1 December 2022.

Your usual caveat – since 2019-20 data on non-academic staff has been optional for providers in England and Northern Ireland. Of 223 providers returning data (everyone registered in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, plus Approved (fee cap) providers in England) just 126 returned data on non-academic staff – the lowest number on record. If you were interested, say, in the recruitment problems providers are facing in some professional services, the sector’s statistical record will not help you see them.

So this is really a way at looking at the UK’s 240,420 (up three per cent on last year) academic staff. Let’s start with employment conditions:

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Numerically and proportionally, academic “research only” contracts are at a low ebb – just over 20 per cent of academics were on this kind of contract in 2022. Two-thirds of part time academic staff (excluding, as usual, atypical staff) were on teaching only contracts.

There do seem to be more professors about – some 24,430 (10 per cent of all academics) have a chair, though proportionally men are more likely to become professors than women.

There is good news on contract types – more academics than ever are on permanent contracts (rather than fixed term), and this is against an overall growth in the number of academic staff. And there has been a fall in the number of academics on zero hours contracts – there were 3,915 in 2022, down from 4,420 in 2021 but up from 3,545 in 2020

So what do we know about who these academic staff are?

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Just 0.86 per cent of the UK’s professors (210) report their ethnicity as Black. This is, damningly the highest on record in both numerical and proportional terms. Overall, the proportion of academic staff reported as white is the lowest on record (69.54 per cent). And 3.03 per cent are black – the highest proportion on record.

For the first time, there are more non-EU academics working at UK providers than EU academics – with a slight reduction in the proportion of UK academics.

There’s not usually much interest in the “source of basic salary” data – it’s generally reasonable to assume that most academics on a salary paid by someone other than the university were researchers on projects. What’s notable (if you compare on the last visualisation) is how the proportion of research only academics and the proportion of academics paid by “other sources” have converged. It is very likely that you would struggle to become a researcher that does not teach without external funding covering your salary.

Where next for HESA spring

We’d usually now look forward to the first release of student data from the HESA Student collection. However, the struggles with Data Futures mean that we are looking, very optimistically, at April before the first sight of this data. The next release from HESA will be the full Staff record on 30 January.

3 responses to “HESA spring 2024: Staff, in outline

  1. “It is not very likely that you would struggle to become a researcher that does not teach without external funding covering your salary.” I think this sentence contains an error.

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