The number of managers, professional and technical staff employed by universities grew at a faster rate than the number of academics last year.
Official statistics show that, in 2006-07, the number of academic staff at UK institutions increased by 3.1 per cent to 169,995.
Although they still outnumber managers, professional and technical staff by more than two to one, this second group grew by 3.7 per cent to 79,250.
Roger Brown, co-director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development at Liverpool Hope University, said that, although one year's statistics did not constitute a trend, the rise in non-academic posts reflected the situation in US higher education.
He said: "In the US, year on year the proportion of staff who are not academics has increased; Harvard now has something like 83 per cent of staff who are not academics.
"The twin pressures of increased regulation and increased sensitivity to the market have inevitably increased the number of people who are not teaching."
Professor Brown said revenue from teaching had been redirected to support other activities in the US.
"The average American public institution spends about 10 per cent of its revenue on marketing, and private institutions spend about 20 per cent - and we're going in that direction, no question at all."
David Allen, registrar of the University of Exeter, said he did not believe that the figures, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, indicated "creeping managerialism".
"These days, it is more a partnership, with many professional staff actually freeing up academic staff's time, so that they can concentrate on teaching and research. I think there is a trend there, that universities are deliberately appointing more professional staff to provide the support to optimise academics' work."