Recruitment and Retention Problems for Academic Staff in Higher Education

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Demand for academic staff in Higher Education has been increasing2 and may be expected to continue to increase given the Government’s intention that participation in Higher Education should increase substantially amongst those aged 18 to 30 years old.

At the same time, recruitment and retention problems have been growing in prominence (HEFCE, 2003) and there has been a long-standing concern that the sector faces a ‘retirement bulge’, as academics from the 1960s expansion reach retirement. Consequently, there is concern about the adequacy of the future supply of academics.

Other substantial changes in Higher Education in the past 10 to 20 years are likely to have contributed to the tightness of the academic labour market3. Polytechnics were granted university status in 1992, changing their funding regime, their focus and the demands on staff. The number of students has grown substantially, a growth which has not been matched by staff increases resulting in a large increase in the student:staff ratio. Changes in funding have led to much greater emphasis on research output (through the Research Assessment Exercise, the RAE), teaching quality (through the requirements of the Quality Assurance Agency, the QAA) and on academics raising research and consultancy funds. Other changes include tighter contractual terms (affecting holidays and hours worked), an increase in the use of short-term and hourly-paid contracts and the loss of tenure. Overall, these changes have tended to alter the nature of the job, reducing autonomy and increasing the workload, including that of administrative and teaching tasks. At the same time, both the salaries and status of academics are perceived to have deteriorated relative to alternative careers (Halsey, 1992; Keep et al., 1996).

Substantial change in the nature of any job is likely to increase turnover, as a mismatch develops between the nature of the job to which people were recruited and the actual job. If these changes tend to reduce the quality of the job, rather than just change it, and if the applicant requirements are not altered (and, probably, lowered), recruitment will also become more difficult. Both turnover and recruitment difficulties will be exacerbated by a relative decline in pay. Overview of the study

Against this background, the study was designed to identify the factors which lead to individuals entering and leaving academic employment in the English Higher Education sector. Although the main focus was entry and exit from the sector, recruitment to and retention by individual institutions can shed light on this and was also investigated.

For the purposes of the study academic employment was defined as jobs in higher education institutions (Universities and Colleges of Higher Education) whose main function was academic teaching or academic research, irrespective of the contractual terms of the job holder. Thus lecturing (e.g. Professors, and Lecturers) and research staff (e.g. Research Assistants, post-docs and Senior Research Fellows) are included, but academic-related staff (e.g. technicians) are not. Full-time, part-time, permanent and temporary staff within these groups are included4. Two main groups of academics were excluded from the study: those in Further Education Institutions and those on clinical rates of pay. The resources of the study precluded inclusion of these two groups5. Following discussion with the DfES, it was decided to focus on staff at English HEIs. This was done in order to prevent differences in the funding and structure of the HE sectors obscuring the analysis. Two exceptions to this rule are the analysis of the HESA data on research students and the chapter on international comparisons of pay (Chapter 4). These are discussed in more detail in sections 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 below (and in further detail in Appendix C and Appendix D).

The study had five, inter-related, strands:
• a literature review to establish the nature of the recruitment and...
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