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Statement on the use of HESA staff data

HE providers return data about all their staff contracts to HESA. The HESA staff record is a measure of universities’ resources collected on behalf of the HE funding bodies for their monitoring purposes. The data does not distinguish ‘zero hours’ contracts or measure the ‘precariousness’ of individuals’ employment as this is not the purpose of the data collection.

The Guardian article “Universities accused of 'importing Sports Direct model' for lecturers' pay” (16 November 2016) refers to HESA data analysed by the University and College Union (UCU). The measures used in the comparison of universities’ employment practices add up staff with ‘Atypical’ contracts with staff on ‘Fixed-term’ contracts. These two populations are not comparable according to HESA definitions.

Terms of employment’ are a characteristic of contracts and can be returned as ‘Open-ended/Permanent’, ‘Fixed-term’ or ‘Atypical’. Permanent and fixed-term contracts are counted on a census data of 1st December to avoid double counting of staffing resources. ‘Atypical’ contracts are counted separately to give an additional picture of staff resources from this contract type. A sum of individuals with fixed-term and atypical contracts does not give a meaningful picture of staff resources.

The full definition of Atypical contracts in the HESA staff record is as follows:

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 HESA staff record only collects data on staff with a contract of employment. Staff employed through temping agencies are not included the HESA staff record.

For more information on the HESA staff record see the definitions or the data collection coding manual. For published HESA staff data see Data and analysis.

We welcome suggestions to improve the data that we collect - please see Suggesting improvements to the records.


Press Officer