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UK university staff tenure rates 
7th-Jul-2014 12:53 pm
pic#111812164 bunsen burner

A UK higher education agency has published the rates of both open and fixed term staff (the ten most extreme values shown)


The UK average rate of open contracts at UK universities is about 35 %; how does this compare internationally?

Comments 
7th-Jul-2014 03:07 pm (UTC)
Oooh where did you get this from? I'm always curious to see where my old and new place sit.
7th-Jul-2014 04:27 pm (UTC)
Raw data's here: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/stats-staff
Dunno where op got the table though.
8th-Jul-2014 09:57 am (UTC)
Raw data was sent to R (statistics software), then plotted as the graph shown.
7th-Jul-2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure how you can compare this internationally since the contract systems are different. Is fixed term comparable to tenure, and open to adjuncts?
7th-Jul-2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
No, open is effectively tenured; fixed (meaning 'fixed term, i.e. usually a 1-3 year contract) also includes all the research post docs which are pretty common in the uk as well as the teaching-focused jobs.
A high ratio of fixed term to tenured staff is still an unhealthy sign in terms of job security for academics, but it doesn't map on to the us adjunct system as the uk post-docs are (usually!) better, less exploitative jobs to have.
8th-Jul-2014 10:35 am (UTC)
Could you give the source of the graph? Would love to know if that's academic staff or all staff.
8th-Jul-2014 11:43 am (UTC)
See a previous post: http://academics-anon.livejournal.com/1869797.html?thread=43884517#t43884517

My interpretation of HESA is that the data refers to academic staff.
8th-Jul-2014 11:47 am (UTC)
I don't think it does - see https://www.hesa.ac.uk/sfr198 So it would depend which part of the data this table was based on.
8th-Jul-2014 12:35 pm (UTC)
The data source for the graph is for the period 2010-2011, for "research-only academic staff".
8th-Jul-2014 02:40 pm (UTC)
That's only about 25% of academic staff and about an eighth of all staff, then, and (without looking at the data, because I'm on my iPad!) heavily skewed towards sciences - research-only contracts would be a tiny minority of humanities staff. I'm actually amazed how many permanent contract research-only staff there seem to be at Scottish universities in particular - wonder if Scottish postdocs are typically on permanent contracts or something?
11th-Jul-2014 12:03 am (UTC)
The post docs in my department (Scottish, sciences) are all fixed term. I'm not sure where the high number of research-only staff has come from - even the readers in our department do some teaching and I know of other places where that is the case as well.
11th-Jul-2014 09:33 am (UTC)
The data set comprised > 140 universities; as for bias towards sciences, the inclusion of institutions such as LSE (sorry, don't consider economics to be a science! ;) ), or the notorious London Metropolitan University, suggests otherwise. However, it was noticed that institutions such as Royal College of Art failed to provide any data.
11th-Jul-2014 09:43 am (UTC)
No, I mean, specifically if this particular table is research-only staff, it would probably be biased towards sciences. Research-only staff are fairly uncommon in the humanities.
8th-Jul-2014 12:26 pm (UTC)
Interesting - I thought the UK abandoned tenure a few decades ago.
8th-Jul-2014 02:34 pm (UTC)
I don't think we ever had anything comparable to what North American academics called tenure, which as I understand it makes academics uniquely un-fire-able. A permanent/open-ended academic job here is the same as any other permanent public sector or private sector role: if they want to get rid of you for something you've done, you'd have to go through the usual disciplinary/performance-management procedures first and have the same rights, and if they wanted to make the position redundant, there's a different eat of procedures, but in terms of what you're entitled to and how difficult it is, there wouldn't be hugely significant differences between academia and anywhere else.

There are differences between sectors and employers about how likely redundancy is (and it used to be extraordinarily unusual in the public sector), and some private sector roles are more likely to have more clearly defined outputs, which would make it easier to performance-manage someone out of a job, but they'd all be governed by the same legislation.
8th-Jul-2014 03:01 pm (UTC)
As far as I remember, back in the 1970s you could only be fired for breach of professional ethics or a complete failure to publish, but this might have been up to individual institutions. I have vague recollections of a case where a Marxist prof got the boot for not publishing (the university didn't count his one publication, which was a translation) - caused quite a furore back in the day.

Personally I find the idea of tenure rather anachronistic. I realise that the idea is to protect academics from being fired for having unpopular opinions, but surely you shouldn't be able to fire anyone for having unpopular opinions, whether they are professors, adjuncts or cleaning staff.
8th-Jul-2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
But I thought that would have been true across the public sector too, rather than unique to universities? Not that I was working then, but the impression I've got is that it's more about changes across the broader labour market rather than snything specific to higher education.

And did we ever had anything comparable to the formal tenure review process that North America has?
8th-Jul-2014 05:25 pm (UTC)
Someone older than me needs to answer that question ;-)
9th-Jul-2014 01:44 pm (UTC)
The wording of "staff" rather than "academic" may be revealing. It's not particularly surprising that universities with very large medical schools (or that are institutions entirely composed around clinical fields) have higher rates of contract "staff": research fellows and the like are usually contractual and often in medical fields there is a high proportion of academics who are clinicians first.

Edited at 2014-07-10 10:48 am (UTC)
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