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Higher Education Staff Statistics: UK, 2021/22

Statistical Bulletin SB264

This Statistical Bulletin includes: About this release | How many staff are there in HE? | What are the employment conditions of HE staff? | Who's working in HE? | Notes and definitions

About this release

This bulletin provides details of staff employment at UK higher education (HE) providers on 1 December 2021. Detailed analysis of the HESA staff record will be available in the Higher Education Staff Open Data, due to be released on 21 February 2023.

From 2019/20, it is not mandatory for HE providers in England and Northern Ireland to return information about non-academic staff. Further details on coverage changes can be seen in the notes. We advise caution in interpreting this data.

How many staff are there in HE?

In 2021/22, 216 HE providers reported staff data to HESA. Of these providers, 213 were present in 2020/21 and 3 were new additions this year after being added to the OfS Register in the Approved (fee cap) category during the reporting period. More information on data coverage is given in the notes section and the expandable box How are HE staff counted by HESA? below Figure 1.


On 1 December 2021:

  • There were 233,930 academic staff (excluding atypical) employed in the HE sector, an increase of 4% from 224,530 on 1 December 2020.
  • The number of academic staff (excluding atypical) employed on full-time contracts on 1 December 2021 increased by 2% relative to 1 December 2020. The number on part-time contracts have increased by 9% over the same time period.
  • Numbers of academic staff (excluding atypical) with UK and non-EU nationality have increased compared to the previous year, while the number of EU nationals has declined.


Figure 1 - All staff (excluding non-academic atypical) by activity standard occupational classification

Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22

How are HE staff counted by HESA?

Higher Education Providers send data to HESA about all their staff who are employed under a contract of employment at any time during the academic year (1 August to 31 July). To prevent over-counting of staff resource HESA only publishes data about staff employed on an active contract on a single reference date of 1 December.

Exceptions to the 1 December census date rule are staff on atypical contracts who are counted regardless of their start and finish dates. Atypical staff figures are always shown separately and should not be added to non-atypical figures.

Most counts of staff numbers are Full-Person Equivalent. This means that a staff member with more than one contract or activity is divided between those activities in the data tables. For example someone who works 3 days a week as a professor and 1 day a week as a gardener will be counted as 0.75 professors and 0.25 gardeners.

See the definitions for Coverage and Staff full-person equivalent for more detail.

The contract marker filter on Figure 1 provides an option to view data on the number of staff on academic atypical contracts. Please note that staff on atypical contracts form a separate population which is not comparable to those on other contract types (see the statement on the use of HESA staff data for more information). This bulletin does not include information on non-academic atypical contracts. Since 2015/16, atypical staff on non-academic contracts have been excluded from the coverage of the Staff record.

In 2021/22, 62,730 staff were employed by HE providers on academic atypical contracts. Atypical contracts meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Are for less than four consecutive weeks - meaning that no statement of terms and conditions needs to be issued.
  • Are for one-off/short-term tasks - for example answering phones during clearing, staging an exhibition, organising a conference. There is no mutual obligation between the work provider and working person beyond the given period of work or project. In some cases, individuals will be paid a fixed fee for the piece of work unrelated to hours/time spent.
  • Involve work away from the supervision of the normal work provider - but not as part of teaching company schemes or for teaching and research supervision associated with the provision of distance learning education.
  • Involve a high degree of flexibility often in a contract to work as-and-when required - for example conference catering, student ambassadors, student demonstrators.

The total full-time equivalent (FTE) value of atypical staff in 2021/22 was 5,595. Further detail on staff FTE will be published on 21 February 2023 in our Higher Education Staff Data, 2021/22 open dataset.

What are the employment conditions of HE staff?

Source of basic salary

  • Among academic staff, 186,625 or 80% had a basic salary that was financed entirely by the HE provider in 2021/22. This figure has increased from 78% in 2020/21.
  • The remaining 20% had other sources of basic salary. Other sources can include being partly financed by the HE provider, financed by research councils, UK branches of multinational companies, the NHS and/or UK and overseas charities.

Academic employment function

  • In 2021/22, 100,160 or 43% of academic staff were employed on contracts described as having a teaching and research function. The total for 2020/21 was 98,630 or 44%.
  • A further 35% of academic staff were on teaching only contracts. This percentage has steadily increased year-on-year since 2015/16, when it was 26%.
  • Over the same period, the proportion of academic staff with research in their contract has decreased year-on-year, from 73% in 2015/16 to 65% in 2021/22.

Contract levels 

  • Among academic staff, 23,515 or 10% were employed on a contract level described as a professor in 2021/22. It should be noted that this is likely to be an undercount of all professors because many will fall into more senior levels, i.e. Heads of Department.
  • Of professors, 30% were female in 2021/22. The percentage of female professors increased by two percentage points since 2020/21.
  • Academic staff employed on other senior academic contracts comprised 41% females in 2021/22. This has gradually increased from 33% in 2013/14.
What’s the difference between a professor and an other senior academic contract level?

Every contract is coded with a contract level. The professor level (F1) is defined as “senior academic appointments which may carry the title of professor but which do not have departmental line management responsibilities.”

Other senior contracts (codes A to E) include leadership and management responsibilities. These contracts may also be held by people who hold the professor title.

See the contract levels definition for more detail.

Terms of employment

  • Among academic staff, 77,475, or 33% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2021/22.
  • Of full-time academic staff, 24% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2021/22. In contrast, 51% of part-time academic staff were employed on fixed-term contracts.

Figure 2 - Academic staff (excluding atypical) by employment conditions

Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22


Figure 3 shows data about the number of staff on an hourly paid contract. This can be filtered by various data fields including zero hours contract.

  • Among those on an academic contract, 37% of part-time staff were hourly paid compared with less than 1% of full-time staff, while 8% of part-time non-academic staff reported to HESA were hourly paid compared with less than 1% of full-time staff.
  • More staff on fixed-term contracts were hourly paid relative to open-ended/permanent contracts. This was true among academic staff and non-academic staff reported to HESA.
  • There were 4,420 academic (excluding atypical) staff on a zero hours contract, of whom 93% were hourly paid.
What is a zero hours contract?

A zero hours contract is a contract between an employer and a worker where the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours, and the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.

Figure 3 - All staff (excluding atypical) by mode of employment and hourly paid marker

Academic years 2021/22


Who's working in HE?

  • Female staff accounted for 49% of full-time staff reported to HESA and 66% of part-time staff in 2021/22.
  • In 2021/22, there were more male than female academic staff (121,690 and 111,925 respectively). Figures 2 and 3 show that 43% of full-time academic staff were female.

Figure 4 - All staff (excluding atypical) by mode of employment, contract marker and sex

Academic year 2021/22

Academic marker            Mode of employment

Age of staff

  • In 2021/22, 7,450 or 3% academic staff were aged 25 and under. At the opposite end of the age groupings, 45,390 or 19% of academic staff were aged 56 and over.
  • Almost half of professors were aged 56 and over.

Ethnicity of staff

  • Of academic staff with known ethnicity, 20% were from ethnic minority backgrounds in 2021/22. This has increased from 16% in 2017/18.
  • Of the 21,760 professors with known ethnicity, 2,625 or 12% were from ethnic minority backgrounds. Of the 2,625 professors, 1,705 were Asian.

Nationality of staff

  • On 1 December 2021, among academic staff with known nationality, 37,995 or 16% were EU nationals, and 16% had a non-EU nationality.

Disability status of staff

  • The number of staff known to have a disability increased by 2,645 compared to 2020/21. Scottish HE providers account for 1,115 of this increase which is largely thought to be attributed to a change in reporting practice.

Figure 5 - Academic staff (excluding atypical) by personal characteristics

Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22



Who produced this Statistical Bulletin?

This bulletin has been produced by HESA in collaboration with statisticians from the Department for Education, the Office for Students, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland. It has been released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

On 4 October 2022 HESA merged with Jisc (the UK’s digital body for tertiary education). As part of the merger arrangements HESA (Limited) has been retained as a company limited by guarantee, with Jisc as sole member. The former staff of HESA Limited have been transferred to Jisc. HESA remains a designated producer of Official Statistics under the relevant Official Statistics Orders. Following the merger the Board of Directors of HESA Limited have taken the decision to formally delegate the production and release of HESA’s range of official and national statistics to Jisc.

Production and release processes are now undertaken by the same team of staff who were responsible for this work prior to the merger. These staff remain appropriately skilled and experienced in compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics and the associated Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Orders. Statistical policies and procedures established before the merger (and previously assessed as compliant with the Code of Practice for Statistics by the Office for Statistics Regulation) remain in force and materially unchanged. Governance of delegated production and release activities is provided by a ‘Data Collection and Statistics Oversight Board’ which includes the members of the Board of Directors of HESA Limited.

On the basis of these delegated statistical production arrangements, the regular HESA publications continue to be published as official and national statistics. Users of these statistical products can be confident in their ongoing compliance with the pillars of quality, value and trustworthiness as articulated within the Code of Practice for Statistics.

What is the coverage of data in this release?

There are notable changes to the coverage of Staff data from 2019/20. Prior to 2019/20, the data covers all academic and non-academic staff from all publicly funded HE providers in the UK (and the University of Buckingham). From 2019/20 it became optional for providers in England and Northern Ireland to report data about staff on non-academic contracts (with the exception of any non-academic contracts held by vice-chancellors/heads of institutions or governors).

A further change in England from 2019/20 was the introduction of the Office for Students’ (OfS) Register and the two types of registration categories available to providers in England; Approved (fee cap) and Approved (further information relating to the OfS Register can be found in section III of the pdf document Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England [PDF]). Those registered in the Approved (fee cap) category are covered within the 2019/20 data presented, alongside all publicly funded HE providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Of the 197 HE providers reporting staff data to HESA in 2019/20, 131 opted into returning data about all of their non-academic staff. The remaining 66 opted out and therefore only returned non-academic staff data pertaining to vice-chancellors/heads of institutions or governors. Due to this, we advise caution in interpreting this data.

Of the 213 HE providers reporting staff data to HESA in 2020/21, 130 opted into returning data about all of their non-academic staff. The remaining 83 opted out and therefore only returned non-academic staff data pertaining to vice-chancellors/heads of institutions or governors. Due to this, we advise caution in interpreting this data.

Of the 216 HE providers reporting staff data to HESA in 2021/22, 129 opted into returning data about all of their non-academic staff. The remaining 87 opted out and therefore only returned non-academic staff data pertaining to vice-chancellors/heads of institutions or governors. Due to this, we advise caution in interpreting this data.

Has data for earlier years been revised?

This release uses revised data returns (the 'fixed' database) for time series figures. The fixed data return facility provides HE providers with the opportunity to make post-collection amendments to their HESA return. The fixed database is opened following the closure of the corresponding live data collection and usually becomes available for the first time at least 18 months after the original dataset is delivered. Please refer to the definitions below for detail as to which versions have been used to produce this release and the impact of these changes.

Has COVID-19 had any impact on this release?

Data for the 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 HESA Staff record was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exceptional guidance was issued to HE providers about a small handful of data fields within the collection to clarify HESA's expectations about how these fields should be treated in light of the pandemic. Note that the 2019/20 data in this bulletin relate to details about staff employed on 1 December 2019 (with the exception of academic atypical staff which are included within Figure 1). This precedes the declaration by the World Health Organisation of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. In contrast, 2020/21 data relate to staff employed on 1 December 2020, when lockdown conditions were in place in England and Northern Ireland, and restrictions active within Scotland and Wales. 2021/22 data relate to staff employed on 1 December 2021, at which point there were no COVID-19 restrictions in place.

HESA considered performing a detailed analysis of potential COVID-19 impacts on the Staff record. However, since the Staff data is limited in scope, many of the hypotheses that one might wish to test would not be visible to us. For example, press reports from 2020 and 2021 suggested that the switch to online delivery of courses resulted in significant additional effort for many staff. This hypothesis is difficult to test because HESA staff data does not permit straightforward linking of Staff records between years and contains very limited data on hours of work.

An initial analysis of the Staff data showed similar patterns to previous years and our analysis of Student data found limited impacts of COVID-19. We therefore decided not to undertake an in-depth analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on this year's Staff data.

How to use the tables and charts

The tables and charts (labelled as figures) within this bulletin are interactive. There are options immediately above the figures to filter by data field(s) such as by sex or mode of employment. The figures refresh to display the option(s) chosen, updating the data accordingly.

In the figures, 0, 1, 2 are rounded to 0. All other numbers are rounded up or down to the nearest multiple of 5 in line with the HESA rounding strategy. Percentages are calculated on unrounded data and are rounded to the nearest whole number. This means percentages may not sum exactly to 100%.

It is a criminal offence under Section 171 of the Data Protection Act 2018 for a person knowingly or recklessly to re-identify information that is de-identified personal data without the consent of the controller responsible for de-identifying the personal data.

How can I get the data in a spreadsheet?

All the data is presented in interactive tables on the HESA website and will not be published in Excel spreadsheets. Below each table you will find a link to download the table as a *.csv.

If you are planning to open the *.csv files in Excel, you must ensure you import the *.csv data, rather than just opening the file directly. This will ensure the data is presented appropriately without corrupt characters appearing. We have published instructions on how to import *.csv files in earlier versions of Excel. If you are using Excel 2016, you should select 'Data' in the top ribbon and then choose 'From Text/csv'. In the options screen, select '65001: Unicode (UTF-8)' in the 'File Origin' box; click 'Edit' and ensure that all columns are formatted as 'Text'.

How to print this bulletin

This bulletin is designed primarily for on screen users. It can be printed by pressing Ctrl + P from within the release.


The data presented in this bulletin is based on the 2021/22 HESA Staff record. The statistics in this bulletin are derived by HESA from data collected from all HE providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Approved (fee cap) providers in England.

Data was prepared in January 2023 using the following versions of the datasets:

  • 2017/18 Fixed dataset, September 2020 version
  • 2018/19 Original dataset, November 2019 version
  • 2019/20 Original dataset, December 2020 version
  • 2020/21 Original dataset, December 2021 version
  • 2021/22 Original dataset, November 2022 version

Staff definitions

See data intelligence for specific notes about staff data in the first release.

HESA cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.

Contact Us

Press enquiries should be directed to the Press Office at HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ, +44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 6), [email protected]. General enquiries about the data contained within this bulletin should be addressed to Rebecca Mantle, Head of Official Statistics, HESA (at the same address), +44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 2), [email protected].

Release date

17 January 2023, 9:30



Release frequency

Annual - view all releases (2008/09 - onwards)


Children, education and skills

Issued by

HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ

Press enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 6), [email protected]

Public enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 2), [email protected]


Rebecca Mantle

Pre-release access

View pre-release access list for this release

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