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Higher Education Staff Statistics: UK, 2017/18

Statistical Bulletin SB253

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

Note: Coding changes in the contract levels of staff over time were processed incorrectly by HESA for this Statistical Bulletin. This resulted in incorrect data being displayed for “Other senior academics” and “Other contract levels” for the academic years 2013/14 to 2015/16 in Figure 3 of this release. Previous years’ releases, and other years’ data in this release are not affected. Figure 3 was updated on 21 February 2019 with corrected data for 2013/14 – 2015/16.

About this release

This Statistical Bulletin is the annual first release of data from the HESA staff record. In previous years, our statistical bulletins were known as statistical first releases. We have changed the name to align with terminology used by other official statistics producers.

This bulletin provides details of staff employment at UK higher education (HE) providers on 1 December 2017. Detailed analysis of the HESA staff record will be available in the Higher Education Staff Data, 2017/18 open dataset due to be released on 28 February 2019.

How many staff are there in HE?

On 1 December 2017:

  • There were 429,560 staff (excluding atypical staff) employed in the HE sector, showing an increase of 2% from 419,710 on 1 December 2016.
  • HE staff employed on academic contracts made up 49% of the population. This percentage has remained the same since 2013/14.
  • There were 289,730 staff employed on full-time contracts. This is an increase of 2%, from 284,060 in 2016/17.
  • The number of staff on part-time contracts increased by 3% from 135,650 in 2016/17 to 139,830 in 2017/18.

Figure 1 - Staff at HE providers by mode of employment and academic contract marker

Academic years 2013/14 to 2017/18



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 mean 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.

Figure 2 shows data on the number of staff on academic atypical contracts in addition to staff on fixed-term and open-ended/permanent 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. Prior to this, HE providers could optionally return this information.

On 1 December 2017, 68,845 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 2017/18 was 5,240. Further detail on Staff FTE will be published on 28 February 2019 in our Higher Education Staff Data, 2017/18 open dataset.

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

Academic years 2013/14 to 2017/18


What are the employment conditions of HE staff?

Source of basic salary

  • Among academic staff, 163,010, or 77% had a basic salary that was financed entirely by the HE provider in 2017/18.
  • The remaining 23% 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 2017/18, 100,120, or 47% of academic staff were employed on contracts described as having a teaching and research function.
  • A further 29% of academic staff were on teaching only contracts. This was 2 percentage points higher than in 2016/17.

Contract levels

  • Among academic staff, 20,940 were employed on a contract level described as a professor in 2017/18. 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, 26% were female in 2017/18. This has increased by one percentage point year on year since 2013/14.
  • Academic staff employed on other senior academic contracts comprised 36% females in 2017/18. 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, 70,945, or 33% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2017/18.
  • Of full-time academic staff, 25% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2017/18. In contrast, 50% of part-time academic staff were employed on fixed-term contracts.

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

Academic years 2013/14 to 2017/18


Figure 4 shows data about the number of staff on an hourly paid contract. This can be filtered by various data fields including zero hours contract. Both fields are new for 2017/18.

  • Among those on an academic contract, 38% of part-time staff were hourly paid compared with 1% of full-time staff.
  • For non-academic staff, 10%, or 7,010 part-time staff were hourly paid compared with 1% of full-time staff.
  • More staff on fixed-term contracts were hourly paid than on open-ended/permanent contracts.
  • There were 11,440 staff on a zero hours contract. Of those, 75% were hourly paid.
  • Of academic staff (excluding atypical), 6,520, or 3% were employed on a zero-hours contract.
  • Of the 68,845 staff employed on academic atypical contracts, 16,165 or 23% were on a zero hours contract.
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 4 - All staff (excluding atypical) by academic contract marker, mode of employment and hourly paid marker

Academic year 2017/18


Who's working in HE?

  • Female staff accounted for 48% of full-time staff and 67% of part-time staff in 2017/18.
  • Among academic staff there were more males than females. Figures 3 and 4 show that 41% of full-time academic staff were female.

Figure 5 - Staff by mode of employment, academic contract marker and sex

Academic year 2017/18

Academic marker            Mode of employment

Age of staff

  • In 2017/18, 3% or 6,270 academic staff were aged 25 and under. At the opposite end of the age groupings, 39,765 or 19% of academic staff were aged 56 and over.
  • Among non-academic staff, 9% were aged 25 and under, and 16% were aged 56 and over in 2017/18.
  • Most non-academic staff were employed in administrative and secretarial occupations, including 40% of those aged 25 and under, and 29% of those aged 56 and over.

Ethnicity of staff

  • Of academic staff with known ethnicity, 16% were Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) in 2017/18.
  • Among non-academic staff with known ethnicity, 12% were Black and Minority Ethnic (BME).
What is ‘BME’?

The HESA staff record includes ethnicity information collected from staff by HE providers (see ethnicity definition).

BME stands for ‘Black and minority ethnic’ and is a combination of the Black, Asian, Mixed and Other ethnicity categories.

Nationality of staff

  • In 2017/18, among academic staff with known nationality, 18%, or 37,255, had an EU (excluding the UK) nationality, and 13% had a non-EU nationality.
  • For non-academic staff with known nationality, 7% had an EU (excluding the UK) nationality, and 4% had a non-EU nationality.

Figure 6 - All staff (excluding atypical) by equality characteristics

Academic year 2017/18





We welcome your feedback and comments so we can continue to ensure that this release meets the needs of our users.

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Who produced this Statistical Bulletin?

This bulletin has been produced by HESA in collaboration with statisticians from the Department for Education, 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.

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 remains open for between 6 and 15 months following the closure of the corresponding live data collection and usually becomes available 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.

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%.

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 Control P from within the release.


The data presented in this bulletin is based on the 2017/18 HESA Staff record. The statistics in this bulletin 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 2019 using the following versions of the datasets:

  • 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
  • 2017/18 Original dataset, December 2018 version

Staff definitions

See data intelligence for specific notes about this year's staff data return.

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 211 120, [email protected]. General enquiries about the data contained within this bulletin should be addressed to Rebecca Mantle, Official Statistics Manager, HESA (at the same address), +44 (0) 1242 211 494, [email protected].

Release date

24 January 2019, 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 211 120

Public enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 211 494


Rebecca Mantle

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View pre-release access list for this release


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