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More students per teacher in UK universities than international average

3 May 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Only a third of UK universities have a student to staff ratio under the international average

UCU today said it was unacceptable that the student to staff ratio (SSR) in UK higher education is above the international average.

Analysis of statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) by UCU reveals an average of 16.8 students per member of teaching staff in the UK in 2005-06. The most recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) statistics show an international average of 15.5 students per staff member.

Just a third (34.8%) of UK higher education institutions prepared to release their SSR has a ratio below the OECD average. The highest, with an SSR of 29.8, is the University College for Creative Arts.

The full breakdown of ratios can be found here [34kb]

The new figures show a slight increase from 16.6:1 in 2004-05. However that figure is a considerable decrease from a SSR of 18.1:1 in 2003-04. The union believes that the inclusion of large numbers of part-time teaching-only staff contributed to the decrease in 2004 and has given a misleading impression that more staff are on hand for students.

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'It is unacceptable that the UK, the fourth largest economy in the world, is falling behind competitors when it comes to the number of students to each member of teaching staff at our universities. Despite a recent recalculation of figures the UK is still way behind competitor countries, particularly Germany and Japan, and the ratio of students and staff actually rose this year.

'Lecturers continue to perform their duties to an incredibly high standard, despite the added pressures of more students and ever-increasing levels of paperwork and bureaucracy. For too long, institutions have relied on lecturers' goodwill. We cannot keep cramming more students in our universities and expect the staff to put in even more unpaid overtime.'