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66% of research staff on insecure contracts

Support for Research Staff 2023

31 January 2024

UCU's Support for Research Staff report lays bare the extent of shocking 'gig-economy' style employment practices at some of the most prestigious universities in the UK. 

The report is based on freedom of information (FOI) requests to the 103 UK higher education institutions that employ at least 20 research-only staff and/or where research staff made up at least 5% of the academic staff, combined with Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data on research staff terms of employment. The results, published for the first time, paint a damning picture of the sector's employment practices. Key findings include:

  • around two in three research staff are employed on fixed term contracts, including 88% of research staff at the University of Oxford, 96% at King's College London, 80% at the University of Manchester and 96% at London School of Economics
  • nearly a third of universities (30%) were unable to say whether research staff were redeployed at the end of their contract. Of those institutions that did respond, redeployment levels were as low as zero
  • only one employer offered enhanced paid notice periods to research only staff on fixed-term contracts
  • most employers paid only statutory redundancy pay to research staff dismissed at the end of a fixed-term contract. 

Read the full report: Support for research staff: 2023 FOI report [396kb]

Headline findings by institution

*UCU is aware that some employers use open ended contracts to employ research staff but include an identifiable 'at risk' date in the contract. These will not show as fixed-term contracts in the HESA data but we believe they offer little benefit over a fixed-term contract for most staff. Caution is therefore advised in reviewing the HESA figures.

InstitutionTotal number of research only staff

Terms of employment - fixed-term

Leeds Arts University50%Share
University College London3,9302%Share
City, University of London1406%Share
The University of Aberdeen4008%Share
The University of Winchester1011%Share
Glasgow School of Art1017%Share
Solent University517%Share
The University of Bristol1,41017%Share
The University of Lancaster45519%Share
Ravensbourne University London525%Share
University of Cumbria525%Share
The University of Glasgow1,31025%Share
Royal College of Art2027%Share
The University of Northampton1030%Share
Sheffield Hallam University19537%Share
The University of Dundee56541%Share
Staffordshire University1044%Share
Canterbury Christ Church University3545%Share
The University of Huddersfield13546%Share
University of Worcester1546%Share
University of the Highlands and Islands3547%Share
Courtauld Institute of Art1050%Share
The National Film and Television School550%Share
The University of Central Lancashire12050%Share
University of Bedfordshire3051%Share
The University of York76051%Share
Bournemouth University5053%Share
Cardiff Metropolitan University2054%Share
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland554%Share
Middlesex University3555%Share
Robert Gordon University6055%Share
The University of Leicester49555%Share
Bath Spa University558%Share
The Institute of Cancer Research60059%Share
The University of Cambridge4,13059%Share
The University of East London3060%Share
The University of Westminster6060%Share
The University of Brighton13562%Share
The University of Leeds1,15063%Share
Aberystwyth University14065%Share
Cranfield University27065%Share
The Open University13565%Share
Cardiff University1,01066%Share
Newcastle University1,05066%Share
University of South Wales7066%Share
University of Suffolk1066%Share
Guildhall School of Music and Drama567%Share
Norwich University of the Arts567%Share
Royal College of Music567%Share
University of the Arts, London567%Share
The University of Wolverhampton5567%Share
De Montfort University1568%Share
The Manchester Metropolitan University14068%Share
The University of Sheffield1,50068%Share
Glasgow Caledonian University10069%Share
The University of Bradford3570%Share
The University of Exeter1,00570%Share
Edge Hill University1071%Share
Heriot-Watt University29071%Share
Swansea University47571%Share
The University of Greenwich6571%Share
University of Hertfordshire4571%Share
The University of Sussex40571%Share
The University of Edinburgh2,08073%Share
University of Wales Trinity Saint David4073%Share
Kingston University3074%Share
Leeds Beckett University1074%Share
Birmingham City University3575%Share
London Business School575%Share
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine15575%Share
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama575%Share
University of Chester1575%Share
University of Nottingham1,17575%Share
University of St Mark and St John575%Share
The University of St. Andrews42575%Share
Edinburgh Napier University7076%Share
Falmouth University1076%Share
The University of Stirling19076%Share
University of Derby577%Share
University of Gloucestershire3577%Share
Bishop Grosseteste University1078%Share
The University of Chichester1078%Share
Anglia Ruskin University3079%Share
The University of Lincoln11079%Share
University of London (Institutes and activities)1579%Share
The University of Manchester2,06080%Share
The University of Strathclyde57080%Share
The University of Reading39081%Share
The University of Southampton88081%Share
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine2,43082%Share
Keele University10082%Share
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh3582%Share
The University of Hull11082%Share
University of Plymouth22082%Share
The University of Birmingham1,45583%Share
Liverpool John Moores University14584%Share
The University of East Anglia37084%Share
The University of Surrey39584%Share
Teesside University6585%Share
The University of Warwick83085%Share
Loughborough University30086%Share
The University of Kent21586%Share
The University of Liverpool90086%Share
Bangor University20087%Share
The University of Essex13087%Share
Aston University19588%Share
London South Bank University4588%Share
The University of Oxford4,81088%Share
The Royal Veterinary College5589%Share
University of Durham42589%Share
Birkbeck College12090%Share
Royal Holloway and Bedford New College14090%Share
The University of Portsmouth1091%Share
The University of Salford3591%Share
Abertay University2592%Share
St George's, University of London10092%Share
Ulster University24592%Share
The University of the West of Scotland3592%Share
Brunel University London15093%Share
Oxford Brookes University3094%Share
Queen Mary University of London80594%Share
Queen's University Belfast68594%Share
SOAS University of London5095%Share
University of Northumbria at Newcastle16595%Share
King's College London1,89096%Share
London School of Economics and Political Science46596%Share
The University of Bath31596%Share
Goldsmiths College6098%Share
The University of Sunderland1098%Share
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine44599%Share
The Arts University Bournemouth5100%Share
Buckinghamshire New University5100%Share
Roehampton University10100%Share
Royal Northern College of Music5100%Share
University of the West of England, Bristol5100%Share
Last updated: 1 February 2024