Dissatisfied staff plan exodus

September 8, 2006

Almost a quarter of employees hope to move jobs within a year, fuelling fears over recruitment. Tony Tysome reports

Almost a quarter of university staff plan to leave their current employer in the next year as they seek higher wages and new challenges, a survey by The Times Higher has revealed.

The findings, which show that just under half of staff intend to leave their job within two years, suggest a major struggle for universities in retaining staff in future. The prospect of staff turnover reaching unprecedented levels follows the flurry of appointments in the run-up to the research assessment exercise.

In the online survey of 1,200 staff, which was undertaken by The Times Higher with education research group i-Graduate, more than two thirds of staff cited a higher salary as the most likely reason for them to change jobs.

William Archer, director of i-Graduate, said it was likely that the RAE was only part of the explanation for the high proportion of staff planning to move.

He said: "There has been too much focus on what institutions plan to do with their people. Here, we are looking from the perspective of the individual - what people plan to do with their careers."

He added that the findings confirmed the existence of a "psychological contract" between employers and employees, in which staff valued personal development as well as money.

More than half (55 per cent) of staff surveyed placed a high importance on personal development, indicating that fresh challenges will be a key reason to seek a new position. Just under a third of researchers said they planned to move within the next year.

Nearly a quarter said the possibility of redundancy was most likely to make them move jobs.

Senior managers and non-academic staff are the most settled, but more than a third (38 per cent) indicated that they expected to move within two years.

Among staff seeking a higher salary, professors and readers are the most money oriented, with 71 per cent citing better wages as a reason for moving.

A third of staff are planning to stay with their employer for more than five years, and a fifth expect to stay "indefinitely". Overall, the main reasons to stay are location (40 per cent), variety of work (39 per cent), work challenges (37 per cent) and colleagues (33 per cent).

Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "It is no surprise that low pay is the main factor for lecturers considering moving jobs. Proper pay for all lecturers is the best way to improve morale. The survey also suggests that if more staff were allowed to get on with their jobs and spared the increasing levels of bureaucracy and management interference, they would be much happier."

A statement from Universities UK and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association said the findings were at odds with a 2005 staff survey showing that "retention difficulties have continued to ease". It added: "While there will always be challenges facing the sector, recruitment and retention aren't the widespread problem that this survey suggests."

tony.tysome@thes.co.uk

For details, contact info@i-graduate.org

 

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