HESA – our first look at the 2022/23 dataset

19 January 2024      Ruth Turner, Membership Officer

This week saw the publication of HESA’s first release of 2022/23 staff statistics, and if that isn’t an antidote to “Blue Monday”, then I don’t know what is! Here at UHR I have delved into the stats to highlight key takeaways as we look forward to seeing the full statistical release at the end of the month. A reminder that members can revisit the last year’s analysis here as well as our popular “HESA for beginners” webinar here.

HESA’s first data release predominantly concerns academic staff, however there are some interesting stats to absorb including the number of academic staff growing by 3% year-on-year, giving a total of 240,020 academics (as at 1 Dec 2022). A reminder that between 2019/20 and 2020/21, the number of academic staff in the sector saw a very small increase of less than 1%, but that the following year (2021/22) saw bumper growth of 4%. This was partly in reaction to significant growth in student numbers between 2020 and 2022, a trend which has halted rather abruptly in the current academic year, with may HEIs struggling to fill their programmes in Autumn 2023. We won’t see the outcome of this on staff data for some time however, due to HESA being a lagged dataset.

There has been another increase in the proportion of staff on teaching-only contracts with this figure now standing at 36%, a 1% increase since last year and another record high. The proportion of staff on research in their contract (i.e. research and teaching or research-only contracts) falls again, to 64%. HESA also collect data on fixed term, hourly paid and zero hours contracts. Analysis of academic staff shows that 30% were on fixed term contracts in the 2022/23 data – 22% of full-timers and 43% of part-timers. Overall this is a decrease, since 33% of academic staff were on fixed term contracts in the 2021/22 dataset. The proportion of staff on fixed term contracts has now fallen by 5% since 2014/15. Although many HEIs are working to reduce the use of fixed term contracts, a reduction of 5% in 7 years indicates the challenges associated with this.

Last year, I noted that the proportion of academic staff who declared a disability had risen to 6% from 5% and hoped this might be a trend of increasing disability disclosure for academic staff (it is estimated that 18% of working-age people in Britain are defined as disabled by the Equality Act 2010 (Source: Employers' Forum on Disability), however it was not to be. The number remains unchanged this year at 6%. The proportion of female academic staff has risen by around 0.5% to reach 48.4% of all academic staff, whilst women make up exactly 50% of all full time staff in HE, 66% of part time staff and 63% of non-academic roles. The rest of the diversity data tells a predictably dismal story which I won’t re-hash here, suffice to say that progress is achingly slow.

Finally, one fascinating nugget buried in this data release is that, for the first time, non-EU nationals are greater in number than EU nationals and represent 17% of our academic staff in HE. An outcome of Brexit? Or a triumph for global mobility.... or perhaps a little of both.

I’ve been lucky enough to talk to lots of UHR members about HESA data in the past year and I look forward to continuing those discussions in 2024. I’m already planning some webinars showcasing best practice in relation to compiling HESA returns and maximising their potential and, as always, I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to be involved. In the meantime, I would encourage you to check out HESA’s first data release and get stuck into your own dataset to see what it tells you about your own people.

Sophie Crouchman

UHR Strategic Projects & Research Manager

January 2024

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