Bright old things: The ageing academic population

January 31, 2013

Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency

Academics whose age is unknown are not pictured on graph. Figures are from top of candle rather than top of flame.

Over the past eight years, the profile of the academic workforce has become increasingly skewed towards higher age categories

The number of academic staff aged 66 and over was 171 per cent higher in 2011-12 than it was in 2003-04, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show. The number between 61 and 65 also more than doubled during this period, while the number of academics aged 25 and under shrank by 20 per cent.

According to the Universities UK report Patterns and Trends in UK Higher Education 2012, which referred to figures from 2010-11 showing the same trend, the shift may reflect the changing demographics in the UK population and the phasing out of the default retirement age. However, it may “represent more fundamental shifts within the sector which may warrant further investigation”, it added.

The data show that age profiles also vary greatly by subject. While 39 per cent of academic staff in biological, mathematical and physical sciences were 35 years and under in 2011-12, this was the case for just 15 per cent of academics in education and 21 per cent in design and creative arts.

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