Professors' natural habitat is still old universities

July 26, 1996

The overwhelming majority of professors are still in old universities according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The report, compiled by HESA to coincide with this week's publication of The THES book Beyond the Glass Ceiling, is focussed on the professorial gender gap.

But it also sheds serious doubt on suggestions that the new universities are flooding academe with dubious professorships. Such a view informed some reactions to Oxford University's mass-promotion earlier this month, following which 45 per cent of academic staff now hold professorial or reader rank, and to the decision two years ago by Northumberland University's Phil O'Keefe to resign his new chair at his inaugural lecture.

The survey found that 63 institutions had 40 or more professors in July 1995. Of these only four - South Bank (43), Oxford Brookes (46), Napier (44) and De Montfort (66) - are new universities. The largest professoriats were at University College, London (302), Manchester (265), Glasgow (242) and Edinburgh (222).

HESA emphasises that the figures should be treated with care. There are disparities in the way in which institutions make declarations, the figures are a year old and are the first of their kind so no trend analysis is possible.

But they do also suggest that new universities have been far more responsive to the professorial claims of female academics.

South Bank (32.6 per cent) and Oxford Brookes (26.1 per cent) had a far higher percentage of female professors than the leading old university - King's College, London (17.1 per cent). Napier (11.4 per cent) ranked tenth and De Montfort (9.1 per cent), 18th. Women made up less than one in 20 of the professoriat in 19 institutions and there were no female professors among the 94 at UMIST.

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