Academic jobs up by 27%?!

Another really interesting post has recently gone up on the Manchester PGR careers blog. It seems that, according to official HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) data, the number of permanent academic jobs in the UK has increased by around 27% in the five years up to 2008/9.

Can that really be right? Anyone who has recently finished a PhD and who has been applying for academic jobs might be surprised to hear that there are apparently a lot more open-ended academic jobs out there than there used to be. And it certainly contradicts a lot of the anecdotal evidence that we hear from recent PhD graduates and post-docs (especially in the Humanities?) who tend to report that competition for posts is fiercer than ever.

I guess the competition might partly be explained by the increase in the number of people doing PhDs – perhaps that number has gone up much faster than the apparent increase in jobs. It could also be partly explained by the creation of different kinds of academic jobs (for instance, some staff and educational developers are on academic contracts, but this type of role often requires a shift in discipline and does not appeal to everyone with a PhD). And, as Elizabeth points out, it isn’t entirely clear how different Universities return the data so the results may obscure as much as they reveal…

Anyway, for a fuller look at the data, check out the post on the PGR blog at:


2 thoughts on “Academic jobs up by 27%?!

  1. Worth looking at this very important paragraph at the end:

    I’ve been digging a bit further, and spotted that the increases in academic staff aren’t evenly spread across the grades. There was an increase in the number of Professors and Senior Lecturers/Researchers, and a reduction in the number of Lecturers, from 04/05 up to 07/08.”

    So lets hold our excitement. Recent graduates and early career scholars are not doing that great, on the contrary.

    And perhaps, a more important message that can be learnt from this post in the PGR blog, is that “statistics”, “numbers” and other such “data” are a flexible material, used and abused for all kinds of politics and institutional PR face-lifting.


  2. Interesting stats, and Adi makes a good point about the jobs not being spread across all grades. The science and technology industries also tend to always have positions in academia due to the nature of the industries. With the way the economy has gone with more people looking to stay in academia due to a lack of industry jobs there is of course more competition for places aswell.


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