Three-quarters of UK academics now have teaching qualifications

Hesa figures suggest uptake has hit record high, with more scholars on teaching and research contracts having a teaching qualification than those employed as teaching-only

October 7, 2023
Student lecture in modern university classroom
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The proportion of UK academics with teaching qualifications has risen to a record high, figures suggest.

Analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) data shows that 75.3 per cent of full-time academics had a teaching qualification in 2021-22 – of the 89,000 or so for whom that detail was known.

This was up from 74.8 per cent the year before, and the highest proportion since comparable records began in 2014-15 – when just 69.6 per cent were qualified.

Hesa said it has been mandatory for providers to return information on teaching qualifications since 2012-13, but until recently many submissions had been incomplete.

However, an improvement in data quality has coincided with the introduction of the Office for Students’ conditions of registration and the Teaching Excellence Framework.

The statistics include academics on teaching or teaching and research contracts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Hesa figures show that 75.9 per cent of academics on teaching and research contracts had a teaching qualification in the past academic year – up from 74.9 per cent in 2019-20.

Meanwhile, the proportion among those on teaching-only contracts fell from 74.2 per cent to 73.2 per cent over this period.

The figures may seem counter-intuitive, but they mask the confounding factor of employment status, Kay Hack, the principal adviser of learning and teaching for Advance HE, told Times Higher Education.

Dr Hack said faculty employed on a fixed-term basis were less likely to have a teaching qualification than their permanent colleagues irrespective of their specific role, and the qualification status of temporary and part-time colleagues was more likely to be unknown.

“Professionally qualified faculty play a central role in maintaining the quality of the higher education sector in the UK, whilst research indicates students rate qualified teachers more favourably; the prevalence of teaching-only academic staff on fixed-term contracts therefore raises legitimate concerns for the sector,” she added.

David Palfreyman, director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, said that because the Hesa data would include young adjuncts whose turnover is variable, annual percentages might well vary.

“In the modern massification of higher education – with 40 per cent or more of UK 18-year-olds entering higher education – arguably the pedagogical skill matters more with a more diverse intake than when just 10 per cent of us from a narrow and elite school background entered higher education, so students should expect academics to be concerned about pedagogy.”

He said those on teaching-only contracts might include older academics who had been transferred over from teaching and researching to avoid dragging down an institution’s score in the Research Excellence Framework.

The Hesa data shows that the proportion of those with teaching qualifications tends to be slightly lower at Russell Group institutions than across the rest of the sector.

And the lowest proportion of all providers – where the details of at least 100 full-time academics are known – was the University of Oxford’s 42.6 per cent.

RankHEIs with details of at least 100 full-time academicsTeaching qualificationsTotalPercentage

This was followed by the University of Cambridge (43.5 per cent) and Goldsmiths, University of London (47.2 per cent).

Professor Palfreyman said he would expect elite institutions to have many academics in place from before teacher training became a norm.

Oxford and Goldsmiths both pointed to the fact that their institutions had very high proportions of incomplete data, so the Hesa figures did not reflect the complete picture.

A Goldsmiths spokesperson added that the university was working towards making teaching qualifications an essential requirement for staff.

Meanwhile, Cambridge noted that the data did not include teaching staff employed directly by its colleges.

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Reader's comments (4)

Though if it's anything like the one I did, calling it a teaching qualification is generous.
Having held fixed term teaching posts, the reason why the proportion of FT staff with qualifications is lower than for permanent academics is obvious to me. These people are precariously employed, and most of their time is spent on heavy teaching loads; any spare time after that chasing the next job and any research you can do. The last is important because as was made very clear to me research counts for more than teaching qualifications in appointments, especially permanent ones, but also temporary teaching ones, at Russell group unis anyway. If you’re hard pressed for time and have to prioritise, the time is better spent else. Oh and also if you are precariously employed often you aren’t eligible for the in-house accreditation or for having the cost of applying for FHEA paid for, so have to fund that out of your own pocket.
FHEA is not a teaching qualification! A PGCE is , however.
Scottish universities are curiously absent from that list ... So not strictly true to say UK unis.