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Why choose to work in higher education?

Posted on 19/11/2018 by

Higher education

Higher Education tends to conjure up images of closed academic circles, but it’s actually a huge sector, with over 167 providers in the UK and a wide range of opportunities. Universities are large and complex organisations and have many different types of staff, from lecturers to administration to cleaning and maintenance. Higher education is a sector that is evolving very rapidly with the evolution of technology, making it a very exciting and dynamic place to work.

What is the higher education sector like?

Higher education is a rapidly growing sector and employs over 400,000 members of staff. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), both the academic and non-academic workforce are at record levels.

32% of HE employees work part-time, compared to the UK average of 26%, and opportunities for flexible working are increasing as the sector moves towards a more agile working culture.

There is also a growing focus on equality and diversity within the HE sector. 54% of employees are female, 13% of staff are BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) and 5% of the workforce have a known disability.

The sector contributes around £21.5 billion to the UK economy (around 1.2% of its GDP) and has a reputation for excellence, attracting students from all around the world. Its financial contribution and its part in creating a skilled workforce makes the HE sector very important to the UK Government and it has been protected from the worst of the public sector budget cuts.

 What salaries and benefits does the sector offer?

Salaries in higher education, while not as high as in the private sector, are certainly better than those in the third sector and among some of the highest in the public sector. The sector tends to be reasonably transparent about pay, with academic staff usually on standard pay scales. The University and College Union (UCU) has a free online tool you can use to find out more about salaries for different roles in different institutions.

Beyond salaries, working in higher education offers excellent benefits, including pensions, generous holiday allowance and maternity/paternity leave. The sector is also fantastic for career development, with many opportunities for learning, training and education. Plus, working in a university usually gets you access to its facilities for a reduced price, such as sports centres, canteens and on-campus shops, libraries and theatres.

What makes it a great sector to work in?

Working in higher education is very rewarding and traditionally, levels of job satisfaction tend to be high. Employees know that they are working to support the education and wellbeing of students, the workforce of the future, as well as enabling research that will benefit society. Feeling that your role has a positive impact on society is very fulfilling, and makes the sector a very attractive one for jobseekers.

Universities are very stimulating environments, full of new ideas and intelligent debate. It’s also an environment that is constantly evolving, under the influence of government policies, global relations, changes in funding and new ideas and technologies. All this make higher education and exciting place to work.

If you’re considering a move into higher education, TPP’s Education & Training team can help. We are dedicated specialists in recruiting highly skilled and experienced education professionals to temporary, interim, contract and permanent vacancies across universities and other higher education providers.

Get in touch on 020 7198 6090 or email

Useful resources

Higher Education Statistics Agency - The body for collecting data and offering analysis on the UK higher education sector.

Guardian Universities - Professional network for people working in higher education.

Higher Education Academy - Non-profit organisation dedicated to improving teaching in higher education.

Advance HE - Specialist knowledge and resources, plus externally recognised benchmarking and recognition schemes for higher education institutions and staff.

Quality Assurance Agency - Body set up to safeguard standards and improve the quality of UK higher education.