You are:

  • News

New HESA staff data bring positive findings

UCEA is pleased to see the new HESA staff data released today as it follows instrumental joint working with the HE trade unions to secure this expanded staff data collection*. The 2017-18 data release is a landmark because it provides information on hourly-paid and zero hours engagements for employees in the HE sector for the first time. Shortcomings with the previous data were first highlighted in a 2015 joint report** and these new figures enable a first accurate assessment of hourly-paid employment and will bring the ability to examine future trends. 
These latest data from HESA also emphasise the importance of EU staff to the sector showing 18% (37,255) academic staff having an EU nationality (other than the UK). Despite the referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU, the total number of EU staff employed in the sector increased by 3.7%. The continued proportional increase for women in senior academic and professorial roles is highly encouraging, as is the overall increase (2%) on the previous year in staff employed in HE overall. 
The use of zero hours for academic staff has been a focus of attention in recent years and these data show that 3% of core (not atypical) academic staff are employed on such contracts. We do know that some HE institutions use these contracts for professionals and experts from outside the sector who value the flexibility they can provide. The data show the much higher proportion are found among ‘atypical staff’ who are engaged on a very short-term basis. The HESA data also indicate that 38% of the academic staff who work part-time are on an hourly-paid contract – this is an important group of staff that UCEA and the trade unions were keen to examine in greater detail when together we proposed the introduction of the new categories to HESA in 2016. 
This new information should also be helpful in institutional dialogue on employment arrangements. Concerns regarding the use of hourly-paid staff have been taken seriously by employers in the sector and many HEIs have reviewed their policies in this area. UCEA’s report Flexible and fair, published last year****, included several case studies on HE institutions that had brought in new arrangements that sought to balance the needs of such employees with changing work requirements. 
UCEA’s final offer in the 2018-19 pay round recognised the trade unions’ concerns about the casual workforce and made both some recommendations regarding the long-standing New JNCHES principles underlying good practice in fixed-term and casual employment***** and an offer to undertake analysis of these new 2017-18 staff record data with the unions. UCEA will be taking forward work in 2019 analysing these new data in detail to understand more about where these contracts are typically used and the profile of staff who are employed on them.
UCEA Chief Executive, Helen Fairfoul, said:
“It is pleasing to see that these HESA data demonstrate continued growth in the HE workforce and that this growth is strongest in open-ended contracts. UCEA is also encouraged by the continued proportional increase for women in senior academic and professorial roles. While we still see high numbers of EU nationals in the academic workforce, these data are already over a year old and we know that efforts to maintain UK HE’s position as a destination of choice for international academic talent are vital. 
“The use of zero hours for academic staff has been a focus of attention. These data tell us for the first time that 3% of core academic staff are employed on such contracts, with the higher number found in the atypical population on very short-term engagements. HE institutions explain that many of these staff are professionals and experts from outside the sector who value these flexible arrangements. HE institutions take seriously what it means to be a good employer and many have undertaken in-depth reviews of their use of flexible contracts seeking to provide a balance between employee and employer needs.”
Higher Education Staff Statistics: UK, 2017/18 Bulletin can be found at
*As part of the 2015-16 pay agreement, the parties to New JNCHES agreed to ‘establish a dialogue with HESA on the collection of data on hourly-paid and casual staff with a view to improving analyses and evidence for employment of these staff groups’. Following a series of roundtable meetings between employer and union representatives, four proposals were developed for HESA to consider in its development of the Staff Record. Working group proposals to HESA, December 2016
**A report of joint work between the trade unions and employers in 2015 looking at hourly-paid and casual staff can be found at: 
***Staff numbers on open-ended academic contracts have increased
****UCEA’s latest report published in July 2018, Flexible and fair, can be found at:
*****The NJ principles (from 2002) were re-affirmed in the 2015 report 
UCEA’s infographics on employment contracts in the HE sector can be found at:
For further information:
Please contact Andy Fryer Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker Communications and Events Manager ( on 020 7383 2444.