The 6 Universities Relying Most on Teaching-only Staff

Birkbeck, the University of West London (UWL) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) top the list of institutions relying heavily on junior-grade, teaching-only staff, according to figures obtained by Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE). At Birkbeck, more than a third of recorded academic staff are teaching fellows or teaching assistants, compared to a sector-wide average of less than one in ten, with UWL close behind at 32 per cent. SOAS and the University of Kent both employ 29 per cent of their academic staff on junior-grade, teaching-only contracts, while at the University of Essex and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) the figure is a quarter.

Institution Percentage Absolute number
Birkbeck 33% 315
University of West London 32% 275
SOAS 29% 155
University of Kent 29% 545
University of Essex 25% 265
LSE 25% 385
Sector average 9% 17,165

The data was provided to FACE by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and is taken from the most recent national Staff Record. It covers non-clinical, teaching-only staff with at least a Masters degree, employed at contract levels L0 (‘Teaching assistant’) and K0 (‘Teaching fellow’). FACE requested a list of the ten institutions relying most heavily on these contracts, then excluded unrepresentative institutions such as the Open University, specialist colleges with fewer than 100 reported staff and conservatoires.The data excludes staff whose highest qualification is listed as ‘Unknown’, meaning that the real figures are likely even higher.

The HESA Staff Record is compiled from data self-reported by institutions. It does not include staff employed through agencies and other outsourcing firms, even when such companies are consolidated into an institution’s own accounts, or those who are technically self-employed. For obvious reasons, it also excludes those who lack a formal contract of employment, such as Ph.D. students made to teach as a condition of some studentships. As such, the Staff Record systematically underrecords the number of casualised staff in higher education institutions across the UK.

FACE is a network of academic workers organising for grassroots action and fighting for better conditions. Have a look at our seven demands for casualised workers in higher education, or follow us on Twitter for details of our next organising meeting. Everyone is welcome—join us!

Update, 16 March 2016: In a press release responding to a Times Higher Education article on this blog post, a Birkbeck spokesperson claims that including their institution in the table above is unfair, as Birkbeck “employ[s] many part-time teaching staff, who are reported to HESA [the Higher Education Statistics Agency] as “typical”; whereas most institutions record part-time staff as “atypical”, rendering them invisible in this data.’ This is misleading. According to HESA’s own guidance, ‘atypical’ contracts must meet one of the following four criteria: ‘Are for less than four consecutive weeks’; ‘Are for one-off/short-term tasks’ (examples given include ‘answering phones during clearing, staging an exhibition, organising a conference’); ‘Involve work away from the supervision of the normal work provider’; ‘Involve a high degree of flexibility often in a contract to work as-and-when required’. FACE finds the claim that institutions are reporting large numbers of their teaching staff  (who almost by definition have fixed, timetabled duties lasting longer than four weeks) in this category to be questionable at best, particularly when there exists a separate category for ‘fixed-term’ employees. The broader issues around the HESA Staff Record’s reliability were acknowledged in our original post.

Photo: Senate House, by Steve Parker.


  1. The excluded institutions are as follows: Open University, 63 per cent; Heythrop College, 34 per cent; Royal Academy of Music, 24 per cent; Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, 23 per cent.
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2 thoughts on “The 6 Universities Relying Most on Teaching-only Staff”

  1. Having just secured a ‘permanent’ teaching only post at a UK university – the opening for which I see as an essential part of the urgent reform needed to drive up standards of Teaching and Learning in UK HE – I would suggest that these figures are not necessarily indicative of casualisation. If lack of security is the issue, analysis should be based on all non-permanent contracts. I’m much happier with my permanent teaching only contact than I was with my full but time fixed term Research Fellowship for many reasons, and the increased security is certainly one of them.

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