Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Recruitment and Retention

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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.

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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 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 retention problems and to identify previous evidence on the factors affecting recruitment and retention; this was conducted from March to May 2003; • analysis of HESA staff and student data, 2001/02, to provide a descriptive analysis of turnover in academia, to identify the basic characteristics of employment in the sector and to identify the student supply into academia6; a comparative analysis of pay, using 2001 data, both for comparable employment nationally and for academics in Higher Education internationally, in order to establish the competitiveness of academic pay; • qualitative research within universities exploring human resource policies and practices and factors affecting entry and exit from the sector; the fieldwork was conducted between July 2003 and July 2004; 4 However, the coverage of hourly paid staff is severely limited, owing to limitations in the HESA data (see below) and to practical difficulties of sampling for the survey (see below). Inclusion of the former would have extended the study to Further Education Institutions. The latter have different terms, conditions and employment patterns from other academics in HEIs and so a larger sample would have been required to adequately cover this group. Staff on clinical rates accounted for five per cent of academic staff (HESA Individualised Staff Record 2001/2). 6 Analysis of more recent HESA data and of trends over time is contained in HEFCE (2005a) and HEFCE (2005b). 3 quantitative surveys of academic staff and of research students to identify factors which affect recruitment into academia and retention; the fieldwork was conducted between May and July 2004. The research findings are affected by the policies and practices in effect at the time. To assist the reader, the DfES has produced a list of relevant Higher Education initiatives since the survey fieldwork. These are listed in Appendix H. Below, essential aspects of the methods are described. Further details of the methods appear in appendices. Appendix A describes the qualitative research.

Appendix B discusses the quantitative surveys of academic staff and research students. Appendix C describes the HESA staff and student datasets. Appendix D describes the data used for the intra- and international pay comparisons. Appendix F describes the model used for the analysis of the likelihood of students entering academia. Appendix G describes the econometric analysis of job satisfaction and intentions to leave academia. 1. 1. 1 HESA staff and student data7 For staff, the HESA Individualised Staff Record for the academic year 2001/02 was used.

The analysis was confined to institutions in England and to staff who were not on clinical grades. The sole exception to this is chapter 4, where the focus is expanded to the whole of the UK, to maintain consistency with the international comparisons analysis. For the study’s purposes, the Individualised Staff Record data has two important limitations. Firstly, they exclude employees8 whose total academic employment is below that of 25 per cent of a full-time academic (i. e. those with short hours or with substantial management and administrative responsibilities are excluded)9.

One of the implications is that hourly-paid staff will be substantially under-reported and is unlikely to be representative of hourly-paid staff as a whole. Secondly, the data relating to leavers suffer from a high level of nonreporting: around 60 per cent of leavers’ destinations are missing10. Therefore the findings on movement out of the sector must be treated with caution. For students, the Combined Student/Module Record for the academic year 2001/2 was used. This was combined with the First Destination Supplement (FDS), relating to those students who left in 2001/2.

The analysis was not limited to students from English higher education institutions because the appropriate pool of domestic entrants into Higher Education academic post is the whole of the UK. It is important 7 Note that the University of North London was not included in either the staff or student data supplied by HESA because the university has asked that its individual data is not released. 8 Strictly, they exclude contracts whose total academic employment is below that of 25 per cent of a full-time academic, as the record reports contracts rather than individuals.

For more information see Appendix C. 9 However, there are staff in the Individualised Staff Record with their FTE recorded as less than 25%; the majority of these records relate to staff who arrived or left during the year. 10 Internal work by HEFCE that matched the 2001-2 survey with that for the following year using staff code, data of birth and sex, found that 20% of those for whom the destination was not known remained at the same institution, 5% were found at a different institution and the remainder could not be matched with a record in the second year.

This latter group are made up of those who left the sector and those who remained but whose record in the second year did not match with respect to one of the three criteria. 4 to note that the destination of postgraduate research students in the FDS has a particularly low level of response (38%). Further details are given in Appendix C. 1. 1. 2 The comparative analysis of pay The comparative analysis of pay uses data from national labour force surveys (and censuses in nine countries. These were chosen to illustrate the types of countries to and from which most international movement with UK academia occurs.

They include the main English–speaking countries to which UK academics move (the USA and Australia), together with other English-speaking nations (New Zealand and Canada), three European countries (Denmark, France and Sweden) and Japan. The analysis of the labour force survey data used in the international comparisons used data from the whole of the UK. This was to increase the sample size. However, we would not expect to find significant differences within the UK. Identifying higher education academics was done using information on occupation and industry where available.

In most countries we were able to obtain a sample group that matched the UK sample. Exceptions to this were the US, where the sample also included academic staff at state colleges, who also conduct teaching undertaken in the FE sector in the UK, and Australia and New Zealand, where it is possible that our sample excludes some researchers who have no teaching responsibilities. We discuss the implications of this in Chapter 4 and Appendix D. Comparisons were made in both nominal and real terms. Earnings were converted using exchange rates to make nominal comparisons.

In order to account for differences in the cost of living, purchasing power parity exchange rates developed by the OECD were used to make real earnings comparisons. Further details are given in Appendix D. 1. 1. 3 The qualitative and quantitative survey research Qualitative research was conducted in thirteen English universities and quantitative research conducted in a subset of these. A structured sample of universities was selected to ensure coverage of different types of universities (new, old and colleges of Higher Education), universities in London and elsewhere and universities with differing research ratings.

Institutions with fewer than 200 academic staff and most specialist institutions11 were excluded. Small institutions were excluded because economies of scale in setting up the quantitative survey meant that their inclusion would have led to a smaller survey, as the project resources could not increase the sample through an increased number of institutions. Specialist institutions were excluded for similar reasons. (This did not reduce the subject coverage, as subjects taught in specialist institutions are also found in other HEIs. The purpose of the qualitative research was to identify factors which might affect recruitment and retention, including human resource practices and staff preferences. Qualitative interviews were held with senior staff with responsibility for 11 ‘Specialist institution’ is a classification developed for funding purposes and refers to institutions where 60 percent or more of funding is allocated to one or two cost centres. 5 human resourcing and, in eight of the universities, interviews were conducted with heads of two departments, and a sample of their academic staff and research students.

A survey of academic staff was conducted in ten12 of these universities. The survey covered both research and lecturing staff. Full-and part-time staff were included, but hourly paid staff were excluded (see Appendix B). The questionnaire collected data on personal characteristics, employment history, views on aspects of the job and career intentions. The survey was web-based. A total of 2805 staff responded, a response rate of 32 per cent. Survey data have been re-weighted to be representative of university academic staff in English HEIs.

For more information on the weighting and other issues relating to the staff survey see section B. 1 of Appendix B. A survey of research students (full-time and part-time) was conducted in nine of the universities, where research students were those undertaking a Masters degree mainly by research or a doctorate. The questionnaire collected data on personal characteristics, employment history and career intentions. The survey was web-based. A total of 1330 research students responded, a response rate of 29 per cent. Survey data have been re-weighted to be representative of research students in English HEIs.

For more information on the weighting and other issues relating to the staff survey see Section B. 7. Further details are given in Appendix B. 1. 2 Nomenclature Throughout this report the following nomenclature is used: • Student when referring to the student survey refers to research student. • ‘Academic’, ‘academic staff’ refers to those employed in higher education institutions on either the research grade or the lecturing grade. • University is used to refer to all higher education institutions, whether a university or a college. New and old universities. New13 universities are those that received university status in 1992 (when polytechnics and many colleges of Higher Education converted to university status) or later; old universities are those which had university status before this date. 1. 3 Report layout The structure of the report is as follows. The next chapter sets the scene by presenting evidence on turnover and recruitment and retention problems in higher 12 The aim had been to survey staff and students in twelve universities.

Unfortunately, not all the universities were able to supply the sample, either due to data protection considerations or due to difficulties providing an email contact list. 13 This nomenclature is in common use now, but, previously, ‘new university’ was used to denote universities established in the 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps the term was also used in the nineteenth century to refer to the redbrick universities when the sector was expanded in the Victorian era. 6 education. It also presents evidence on the factors affecting recruitment and retention of academics.

Chapter 3 then describes the structure of academic employment in Higher Education, including the grade structure and contractual status, and the main characteristics of academic staff. This description is used to raise some of the factors which might affect recruitment and retention. Chapter 4 continues with the theme of structure, focusing on pay, and examines relative pay to investigate whether pay differences may be a cause of recruitment and retention difficulties. Both domestic and international comparisons are made.

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