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Poor working conditions at heart of university brain drain, warns report

16 July 2020

A report from the Higher Education and Policy Institute released today found that two-thirds of PhD students want a career in academic research, but that seven out of ten (70%) had left academia within three-and-a-half years.

PhD students who said they may leave academia gave 'lack of job security', 'mental health', and 'a poor work-life balance' as their reasons. A report from UCU last year found that seven in 10 university staff said their mental health had been damaged by working on insecure contracts and more than two-fifths (43%) said it had impacted on their physical health.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Even though academia is PhD students' number one career choice, 70% have left the sector within three-and-a-half years. Universities need to make sure that higher education remains an attractive career choice but insecure contracts, low pay and long hours leave staff facing mental health issues and struggling to pay the bills.

'These issues were at the heart of our recent industrial action and universities urgently need to deal with them so that PhD students and all university staff can enjoy rewarding careers in higher education.'

Last updated: 24 July 2020