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Report highlights serious recruitment and retention difficulties in Higher Education

UCEA and Universities UK Media Release:

A new report on the recruitment and retention of staff in UK higher
education, published on Friday 10 May 2002, points to serious and growing problems in the sector. 

This is the outcome of two pieces of research commissioned in 2001 by UCEA with support from Universities UK, the Standing College of Principals (SCOP) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The survey and case studies show that there are significant problems both in recruiting and retaining the academic and support staff which UK universities and colleges need to sustain the volume and quality of their teaching and research.

The main findings of the research were that:

* Recruitment and retention difficulties for both academic and support staff have worsened progressively over the last four years and are continuing to do so;

* A fifth of all universities and HE colleges experienced difficulties most of the time when recruiting academic staff in 2001;

* The subject areas most affected were: computing/IT, accountancy,  law, engineering, biological sciences, professions allied to medicine, and education;

* Between 18% and 24% of institutions faced difficulties most of the time in recruiting administrative, technical or clerical staff;

* Almost half of all universities and HE colleges had difficulty most of the time in recruiting manual staff.

Philip Love, Chair of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA), said: "Expectations are that these problems will not decline in the short term. Indeed, unless effective remedial action is taken, they will be exacerbated by the impending 'bulge' in retirements in some academic areas and by the need for large numbers of extra staff to meet the Government's objective of increasing HE student numbers.

"The reports make clear that pay is the major underlying factor. Academic salaries are increasingly uncompetitive when compared with rewards available elsewhere, especially in the fields of computing, engineering, accountancy and law. Pay levels in other parts of the public sector, such as the NHS and schools, are now also higher, with the result that it is difficult to recruit those needed to train teachers and health service staff." 

Diana Warwick, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "The HE sector is doing what it can to tackle recruitment and retention issues, but additional funding is now vital to maintain quality. What is of concern to all universities is ensuring that our students, whatever their background, have a high quality experience. That requires university teaching to be informed by research, provided by high quality and motivated staff, in buildings fit for purpose and using modern equipment.

"The resources made available in England under HEFCE's "Rewarding and developing staff" initiative are welcome, but more is needed. Universities UK's submission to the Government's Spending Review 2002 identified an investment need of 9.94bn over the period 2003/4 to 2005/6, to include very significant investment in human resources, the research and teaching infrastructure and to cover the cost of additional student numbers.

"This report clearly demonstrates that the HE sector faces increasing problems in both recruitment and retention. We welcome its findings as further evidence that the additional investment outlined in our Spending Review submission is now of paramount importance."


1. 'Recruitment and Retention of staff in UK higher education' covers the fourth annual survey of staff recruitment and retention in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), plus the report on case studies of these issues. The survey was conducted in September and October 2001 by IRS Research, and the report is based on responses from over 75 per cent of the 163 HEIs contacted. The in-depth case studies examined recruitment and retention difficulties at a sample of 14 universities.

2. Copies of the report are available by contacting UCEA on +44(0)20 7383 2444. Journalists should contact the Universities UK press office on 020 7419 5407 (hard copies and pdf file are available). The publication will also be available on the UCEA and Universities UK websites.

May 2002

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Last updated: 10 May 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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