Staff redundancies totalled 3,000 before fees hike

More than 3,000 higher education staff were made redundant as the sector prepared for the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees, a new study says.

July 5, 2013

About 18 academic staff and 25 support staff were laid off at each higher education institution on average in 2011-12, according to a new workforce survey published by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association on 4 July.

The reduction in staff numbers, which relate to 79 of the 85 institutions which responded to Ucea’s survey, follows two previous years of “major restructuring”, the report says.

Twenty-nine per cent of the institutions said they were likely to make further cuts in academic staff numbers in 2012-13, while 36 per cent envisaged reducing support staff numbers.

However, the 2.4 per cent fall in higher education staff numbers from 2009-10 to 2011-12 was less than half the 5.4 per cent fall in public sector employment over the same period, the report says.

The reportalso shows that turnover across all higher education staff groups (8.3 per cent) was relatively low compared with the rest of the economy (12.7 per cent), while academic staff turnover was even lower at 7.5 per cent.

Recruitment of staff was also not a problem for most institutions, with only 2 per cent saying they “usually” or “always” had difficulties recruiting staff.

However, there were some difficulties recruiting the right academic staff, with 14 per cent of institutions saying that it had become harder to recruit than a year earlier.

While academic recruitment difficulties as not widespread, a significant number of universities faced on-going difficulties recruiting professorial and lecturing staff in business and administrative studies and those subjects related to the built environment, such as civil engineering, building and architecture.

There were also challenges recruiting professors and lecturers in education, creative subjects, politics, economics and biological sciences.

Regarding types of employment, only 13 per cent of institutions indicated that they had increased the number of staff on non-permanent contracts as a response to on-going uncertainty in the operating environment compared with 29 per cent of organisations in the public sector and 20 per cent for all organisations in the UK.

Helen Fairfoul, chief executive of Ucea, said the survey results show a positive picture of the higher education labour market overall.

“Against the backdrop of challenge across the whole economy, it is evident that HEIs have been focusing on remaining attractive places in which to work, finding and keeping the excellent workforce we need,” she said.

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