A new University and College Union (UCU) report, titled ‘UK Higher Education – a workforce in crisis’ has revealed that two-thirds of university staff said they are likely or very likely to leave the university sector in the next five years. They cited pension cuts, pay, and working conditions for their reasons.
The report was based on a survey of almost 7000 university staff at over 100 institutions. The survey also found that 88% of respondents said they are not optimistic or not at all optimistic about the future of higher education in the UK.
Furthermore, 57% of respondents said that they are unhappy or very unhappy about spending the remainder of their career in higher education. The report was sent along with letters to university employers, the secretary of state for Education, and the chair of the parliamentary education select committee.
In the short to medium term, the report states that employers must use the sector’s resources to address falling pay, pension cuts, casualisation, pay inequality, and workload. It also calls for Westminster’s education select committee to launch an inquiry ‘into the morale and wellbeing of staff in higher education.’
UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Staff are sounding the alarm about a crisis of morale and faith in UK universities that threatens the future of the entire sector. A decade of decline in working conditions, pay and pensions has left staff feeling totally demoralised and preparing to leave the sector in their thousands. This report should shock employers and government ministers into getting a grip of the situation before it’s too late.’
Grady stated that the findings ‘should mark a turning point in higher education.’
In March, UCU announced that 68 universities would be taking five more days of strikes before the Easter holiday, making it the third wave of industrial action taken this academic year.
Grady also said that vice chancellors have ‘cultivated a toxic working culture’ that has led to the youngest members of staff being the most likely to leave the sector in the next five years. The survey revealed that 81% of respondents aged between 18 and 29 said they are likely or very likely to leave the sector in the next five years.