Data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show 3,540 fewer staff were employed at publicly funded higher education institutions in 2011-12 compared with the previous year - falling by 0.9 per cent from 381,790 to 378,250.
It follows a 1.5 per cent drop in overall staff levels in 2010-11 when employee levels fell by 5,640 people.
The Hesa report, Staff at Higher Education Institutions in the United Kingdom 2011-12, published on 17 January, includes all staff at publicly funded higher education institutions, as well as the privately funded University of Buckingham, but excludes all staff on "atypical contracts".
However, despite the fall in overall staff levels, the number of academic staff has remained relatively stable for the third year running.
There were 181,385 academic professionals employed in the sector on 1 December 2011 - when the survey was conducted by Hesa - compared with 181,185 employed in December 2010 and 181,595 in December 2009.
The report also details how fewer staff had permanent jobs or open-ended contracts with 63.8 per cent in permanent posts in 2011-12 compared with 66.7 per cent in 2010-11.
In total, 115,680 academics were employed on open-ended or permanent contracts in 2011-12 compared with 120,860 in 2010.
It adds that 36.2 per cent of academics were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2011-12 compared with 33.3 per cent in the previous year.