Skip to main content

Higher Education Staff Statistics: UK, 2016/17

Statistical First Release SFR248


This SFR includes: Introduction | How many staff are there in HE? | What are the conditions of HE staff employment? | Who are HE staff (equality characteristics)? | Notes and definitions


Our Statistical First Release contains interactive charts which require Javascript to be enabled. Without Javascript, we present static charts below.

This is the first release of data from the 2016/17 HESA Staff record. In previous years the release has been titled "Staff at higher education providers in the United Kingdom". It provides details of staff employment at UK higher education (HE) providers on 1 December 2016. It has been produced in partnership with the UK administrations and is released in accordance with the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Detailed analysis of the HESA Staff record will be available in the Staff in Higher Education 2016/17 publication due to be released on 22 February 2018.

How many staff are there in HE?

On 1 December 2016 there were 419,710 staff (excluding atypical staff, see definitions) employed in the HE sector, showing an increase of 2% from 410,515 on 1 December 2015. Of these staff, 206,870 or 49% were employed on academic contracts in 2016/17. This percentage has remained the same since 2013/14. Figure 1 shows the number of staff by contract type and mode over the last 5 years.



There were 284,060 staff in 2016/17 employed on full-time contracts, this is an increase of 3%, from 277,070 in 2015/16. Staff on part-time contracts has also increased by 2% to 135,650 in 2016/17 from 133,450 in 2015/16.

In addition to staff on fixed-term contracts, figure 2 shows data on the number of staff on atypical academic contracts. Please note that these two populations are not comparable (see the Statement on the use of HESA staff data for more information). This SFR does not include information on atypical non-academic contracts. Since 2015/16, atypical staff on non-academic contracts have been excluded from the coverage of the Staff record. Prior to this, HE providers could optionally return this information.

On 1 December 2016, 71,960 staff were employed by HE providers on atypical academic 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 2016/17 was 5,045. Further detail on Staff FTE will be published on 22 February 2018 in our Staff in Higher Education 2016/17 publication.

Figure 2 - All staff (excluding non-academic atypical) by academic contract marker and activity standard occupational classification

2012/13 - 2016/17



What are the conditions of HE staff employment?

Figure 3 shows that 158,375, or 77% of academic staff had a basic salary that was financed entirely by the HE provider. The remainder had other sources of basic salary. Other sources can include being partly financed by the HE provider, financed by research councils, UK branches of multi-national companies, the NHS and/or UK and overseas charities.

On 1 December 2016, 100,165, or 48% of academic staff were employed on contracts described as having a teaching and research function. The percentage of academic staff who were teaching only was 27%. This was 1 percentage point higher than in 2015/16.

There were 20,550 academic staff employed on a contract level described as a professor in 2016/17 (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, refer to definitions). Of these staff, 5,050 were female, representing 25%. A further 6,050 academic staff were employed on other senior academic contracts, of which 2,175 or 36% were female.

In relation to terms of employment, 66% or 137,025 of academic staff were employed on open-ended or permanent contracts in 2016/17 and 34% were employed on fixed-term contracts. These percentages differed by mode of employment. Of full-time academic staff, 75% were employed on open-ended or permanent contracts, compared with just 49% of part-time academic staff.

Figure 3 - Academic staff (excluding atypical) by employment conditions




Who are HE staff (equality characteristics)?

In 2016/17, 48% of full-time staff and 68% of part-time staff were female (see figure 4). In the same year, there were more male academic staff than female academic staff. Figure 3 shows that 41% of full-time academic staff were female, and 56% of part-time academic staff were female.

Academic marker            Mode of employment


Figure 5 shows that on 1 December 2016 just 5,245 or 3% of academic staff were aged 25 and under. At the opposite end of the age groupings, 38,605 or 19% of academic staff were aged 56 and over.

Of the 212,835 non-academic staff on 1 December 2016, 9% were aged 25 and under, and 16% were aged 56 and over. Most non-academic staff were employed in administrative and secretarial occupations, including 39% of those aged 25 and under, and 29% of those aged 56 and over.

In 2016/17, 15% of academic staff with known ethnicity were BME (Black and Minority Ethnic).

Of academic staff with known nationality, 18%, or 35,920, had an EU (excluding the UK) nationality, and 13% had a non-EU nationality. Both proportions increased by 1 percentage point compared with 2015/16 figures. Amongst non-academic staff with known nationality, just 6% had an EU (excluding the UK) nationality, and 4% had a non-EU nationality. These proportions were the same as in 2015/16.

Figure 5 - All staff (excluding atypical) by equality characteristics






HESA has made changes to the interactivity of this Staff SFR to improve the user experience.  We would welcome your feedback and comments so we can continue to make the SFR even more accessible and useful.

Give HESA your feedback on the 2016/17 Staff SFR now

How to use the tables

The tables within this SFR are interactive. There are options immediately above the table to filter by particular data field(s) such as by sex or mode of employment. The tables react to whichever option is chosen, changing the data accordingly. 

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

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 'Get the data' button; this button will allow you to download a *.csv file of the data.

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 release

This SFR is designed primarily for on screen users. It can be printed by pressing Control P from within the release. Please note that the print version of the SFR excludes all tables, although table titles will be visible.



The data in this SFR is based on the 2012/13 to 2016/17 HESA Staff record. The statistics in this SFR are derived by HESA from data collected from all publicly funded HE providers in the UK (including The Open University), plus the University of Buckingham, which is privately funded.

Data was prepared in January 2018 using the following versions of the datasets:

  • 2012/13 Fixed dataset, September 2014 version
  • 2013/14 Fixed dataset, November 2015 version
  • 2014/15 Original dataset, November 2015 version
  • 2015/16 Fixed dataset, September 2017 version
  • 2016/17 Original dataset, November 2017 version

Staff definitions

For data intelligence, please see the following web page.

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

Press enquiries should be directed to the Press Office at HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ, +44 (0)1242 211120, [email protected]. General enquiries about the data contained within this SFR should be addressed to Rebecca Mantle, Information Services Manager, HESA (at the same address), +44 (0)1242 211133, [email protected].




18 January 2018, 9:30



Release frequency

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

Pre-release access

View pre-release access list for this release


Children, education and skills

Issued by

HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ

Press enquiries

+44 (0)1242 211120

Public enquiries

+44 (0)1242 211133


Rebecca Mantle


[email protected]

Department for Education

Welsh Government logo

Scottish Government logo

Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland)