Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 14:26 UK

UK academic staff 'getting older'

Female science academic
The proportion of older academics is increasing

One in five UK academics is now aged 55 or over and the average age of university staff is increasing, figures show.

The average age of academic staff in 2007-08 was almost 48, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

The proportion of younger academics is gradually falling, with 25.2% currently aged 35 or younger.

Hesa studied the ages and working patterns of UK staff since 2004.

The proportion of academic staff working on part-time contracts is now just over one third - 33.4% - up from 31.8% in 2004-05.

And there is a pronounced gender gap, as 42% of female academics work part time compared with 27% of men - a rise for both sexes.

There are also many more academic staff overall - 174,945 in 166 institutions across the UK, up from 160,655 in 2004-05.

Numbers of full and part-time staff have increased over the last four years.

The figures also show that the increased numbers of academics are across all ages, from researchers to professors.

Recession

Male academics still considerably outnumber their female counterparts - there are approximately 25% more men in academia than women.

This equates to 100,355 men and 74,590 women.

The University and College Union general secretary, Sally Hunt, said she thought young people in higher education may be deterred from entering academia because of their level of debt.

Better pay was key to persuading them to opt for an academic career, she said.

"With debt at record levels, it is perhaps not surprising that with the extended qualifications required for a career in academia graduates are considering better-paid alternatives."

The union recently rejected a pay offer from university employers of 0.3%.

Sally Hunt has warned that higher education could be detrimentally affected by the recession.

In her speech to the UCU annual conference, she said budget cuts would result in a "huge unmet demand in further and higher education".

"While Westminster is focused on its internal problems, the recession is destroying jobs and communities," she said.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said savings were aimed at "bearing down on bureaucracy, inefficiency and administrative overheads" and would not affect front-line services.



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