Let the numbers do the talking: HESA’s latest staff data

02 March 2023      Ruth Turner, Membership Officer

Wow, the last year really has flown by! It seems like only yesterday that I was reviewing the 2022 HESA data release and yet last week HESA released the full open data set produced from the 2021/22 staff record.  As always, I strongly suggest you have a look at the data yourselves, but if you don’t have time, here’s a brief summary of some highlights.

Given that the submission of data on professional services still remains optional, this analysis is focused on academic staff and overall, we see little difference in the characteristics of this group. A slight rise in disclosure of disabilities (to 6%) should be welcomed, however this is far from the estimated 18% of the general population who are defined as disabled. Is this because HE is an unwelcome place for people with a disability, or just an unwelcome place to disclose? Meanwhile, the male/female ratio of academic staff stands at 52%:48% reflecting a 1% increase in the number of female staff in the sector. The proportion of women in the Professoriate is now at it’s highest ever level – 30%, though this is due to an increase in, predominantly, white female Professors. It is well reported that the number of Black women in senior positions is growing at a glacial pace, but sector initiatives are beginning to address this.

HESA has been collecting information on Governors since 2018/19 and defines Governors as “members of the HE provider’s governing body, including staff and non-staff, over the year-long reporting period”. The data about who these people are revealed that the makeup of this group of individuals had started to look more representative of the university community it served. However this year’s data shows that whilst the number of Governors identifying as Black, Asian, Mixed or Other (BAME) continues to rise (up from 12% to 13% in 2021/22), the proportion of women on governing bodies remains unchanged at 43%, and the proportion declaring a disability has actually fallen from 9% last year to 6% this year. Diversifying the Governing body is a challenge for HEIs – if this is something you’re working on at your institution, I’d love to hear from you – do get in touch.

In 2020/21, although the number of academic staff leavers stayed relatively static compared to previous years, the number of new academic staff employed dropped by over 5,000, meaning a net gain of only 1,000 academic staff across the entire sector. So, has this trend continued in 2021/22? Well, it looks like the sector has indeed “bounced back” with 20% more starters than leavers in the HESA year 2021/22. If you want to delve deeper - look no further than Wonkhe’s excellent analysis tool to find out what is going on at your own HEI – does it align with what you know about recruitment & retention?

In 2022, I wrapped up analysis with the comment that the number of staff from countries both within and outside of the EU has continued to increase and made up 32% of all academic posts. That figure now stands at 31% due to a fall in the number of academic staff from the EU who work in UK HE. The drop is small (and perhaps expected) but it will be interesting to see whether this trend continues, particularly as negotiations about the UK’s future as part of the Horizon programme continue due to recent political developments.

The HESA dataset is a powerful tool for those working both inside and outside the sector to understand more about the HE workforce. If you are new to the sector, or new to HESA then we’d love to see you at our free webinar on 3 March or 4 May for an overview of everything you wanted to know about HESA but were too afraid to ask! And if you’re already a HESA fan (like me) then you might be interested in taking your data work to the next level by developing your own HR data strategy - join us in March or April for our new programme aimed at senior staff or those who lead management information teams.

Sophie Crouchman

UHR Strategic Projects & Research Manager

February 2023

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