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UCU comment on latest HESA staff figures

19 January 2021

Commenting on today's figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on staff in UK universities, UCU said universities needed to take decisive action to support black and female staff in applying for more senior roles.

The HESA figures reveal that, out of 22,810 professors, under a third (27%) were women and only 1% (155) of the total were black.   

UCU has previously highlighted the problems faced by black staff, including a report in 2019 that reported a culture of bullying and stereotyping for black women in higher education. The union said that the unequal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women, black and disabled staff was also likely to deepen the problems which contribute to the underrepresentation of these groups at senior levels. 

The HESA statistics also revealed a further rise in the proportion of teaching only contracts in higher education. UCU said increasing numbers of staff were losing out on research opportunities as a result of perverse incentives created by the Research Excellence Framework (REF), and called for action to recude the number of teaching-only contracts. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Universities must do more to ensure a more representative mix of staff at a senior level and stop this terrible waste of talent. The pace of change is glacial and universities need to do much more to examine and tackle the barriers which prevent women, black and disabled staff from progressing.  

'Another key intervention should be to reduce the growing reliance on teaching-only contracts, numbers of which have risen once again this year. These contracts are often used by institutions to force staff into different roles against their will - not because the quality of their research has dropped, but simply because of perverse incentives created by the current Research Excellence Framework submission rules.'