Staff recruitment has been "eclipsed" by marketing and branding issues as a key concern of senior university managers.
As the two main academic unions embark on a campaign for a pay rise of at least 10 per cent in 2006, senior managers have indicated in a survey that staff recruitment is the least of their priorities.
Asked to identify important topics, 84 per cent of managers cited the competitive nature of the higher education market, 81 per cent highlighted the impact of tuition fees and 75 per cent singled out "branding". This compared with 39 per cent who cited staff recruitment.
Asked to rate their single biggest priority, only 1 per cent of managers said staff recruitment; 28 per cent identified the impact of fees and 17 per cent rated branding as their top priority.
Roger Kline, head of the universities at lecturers' union Natfhe, said:
"The market is already adversely affecting people's judgment. How is it that concerns about the brand of a university as if it were a soap powder are more important than addressing the widespread anxieties among staff about issues such as workload, pay and the management culture? It is as if some institutions think that if it were not for the staff, they could run quite a good university."
The report, by Euro RSCG Riley, says: "Where once finding academic staff might have been a top issue... this difficulty has been eclipsed by the need to move towards the 'corporate adoption' of a marketing mentality, to think targets, revenue, tuition fees and branding."