University staff are overwhelmingly satisfied with their pay, work-life balance and career development, according to a contentious report.
The report finds that some 87 per cent of managerial and professional staff, including lecturers and researchers at all grades, are satisfied with their pay.
More than two thirds rate their work-life balance as at least satisfactory and 82 per cent are happy with their career development.
Human resources specialists hailed the findings as good news, saying that they show that higher education is at least as good a place to work as many other areas in the public and private sectors.
But trade unions this week challenged the survey, pointing out that it is based on an assessment of general workforce satisfaction by personnel managers, rather than the views of staff members themselves.
Roger Kline, head of universities at lecturers' union Natfhe, said that the HR directors must be living in a "parallel universe".
The report, Workforce Performance Indicators 2005 - Higher Education Sector , by the HR Benchmarker Services consultancy, was based on a survey of 70 HR managers from the Universities Personnel Association, which regularly co-operates with studies from the consultants.
It found that 64 per cent of managerial and professional university staff rated their work-life balance as at least satisfactory, with 4 per cent rating it as excellent.
A third complained that their work-life balance was inadequate, but this is a similar proportion to the private sector workforce at large, where 31 per cent report concerns.
Some 82 per cent were happy with their career development, with 8 per cent rating it excellent.
Elspeth MacArthur, head of personnel at Edinburgh University and chairwoman of the UPA, said: "In terms of workforce satisfaction, higher education does seem to do just as well, if not better, than much of the public sector and better than the private sector."
Phill Jennison, of HR Benchmarker Services, said that the 70 respondents were asked to judge the attitudes of their staff based on their most recent internal staff satisfaction surveys - 61 per cent of respondents had conducted such an internal exercise within the past two years.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "This report shows a sector staggeringly out of touch with its staff's views. Amid all the management gobbledegook is buried the fact that 40 per cent of those surveyed decided for themselves whether staff are happy without recent reference to those affected.
"The picture of a sector where senior managers are telling each other what they want to hear rather than addressing the real problems is telling."