Higher education employees are twice as likely as bar staff and four times as likely as building site workers to be in temporary jobs.
Only people working on campsites or for recruitment agencies have a higher rate of insecurity than higher education staff, according to Labour Force Survey figures released by the Association of University Teachers.
The survey of more than 200 industrial working groups, carried out this summer, categorises 23 per cent of people working in higher education as temporary.
This compares with a third of staff in seasonal, short-stay accommodation, about 20 per cent of those working in television or radio, 18 per cent of domestic staff and only 6.7 per cent of construction workers.
Other AUT figures published this week, analysing data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, show that the situation is becoming worse for academics.
They show that in the early 1970s only one in 20 academic and research staff was appointed on fixed-term contracts. By 1990 this had grown to one in four new appointments and in 1997-98 to more than three in four new appointments.
The report states that if the average rates of increase continue, then by 2003-04 more than half of all United Kingdom academic and research staff will be on fixed-term contracts.
Ethnic minority staff and women are particularly badly off. Nearly half of all non-white British academic staff are on fixed-term contracts compared with 34 per cent for white colleagues.
Of the 128,076 academic and research staff in UK higher education recorded by HESA in 1997-98, 50 per cent of women were on casualised contracts but only 38 per cent of men.
At some institutions the differences are starker.
At the University of Cambridge, 88 per cent of female academic and research staff are on fixed-term contracts compared with 66 per cent of their male colleagues.
At the University of Edinburgh, 70 per cent of women and 46 per cent of men are on fixed-term contracts.
The latest figures follow analysis published last month by lecturers' union Natfhe that showed women academics earned, on average, Pounds 4,300 less than their male colleagues.
David Triesman, general secetary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "This kind of casual employment and widespread discrimination shows contempt for professional staff. It robs them of dignity and any confidence in their future."
Top 10 industries with the highest level of temporary* employment
(out of 208 industrial groups but excluding industries where the total number of temporary staff is under 10,000)
Industry Percentage of workforce in temp. employment
Labour, personnel recruitment 33.7
Camping sites, short- stay accommodation etc 33.6
Higher education 23.0
Radio, television 20.1
Private households with employed persons 18.6
Adult or other education 18.2
Library, archive, museums, etc activities 16.4
Other entertainment activities 16.1
Sporting activities, arenas, stadia 15.7
Primary education 15.1
(*Temporary = fixed-term, seasonal,agency temps, casual)
Source: Labour Force Survey, summer quarter 1999
Proportion of all academic/ research staff on fixed-term contracts Date joined Female male
Pre-1970 9% 12% 1970 to 1974 7% 5%
1975 to 1979 11% 6%
1980 to 1984 16% 9%
1985 to 1989 23% 16%
1990-91 26% 23%
1991-92 30% 29%
1992-93 35% 36%
1993-94 47% 44%
1994-95 55% 56%
1995-96 56% 60%
1996-97 75% 76%
1997-98 80% 77%