Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Age May Not Wither Them but Stale Sector Needs Variety of Staff

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Age May Not Wither Them but Stale Sector Needs Variety of Staff

Article excerpt

A bottleneck of over-60s leaves scant room for 'new blood', data suggest. Jack Grove writes.

Fewer academics are gaining their first job at a university by the age of 30, while the number of older scholars has increased sharply.

These are among the findings of a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England on the changing profile of people working in the sector over the past 15 years.

The study - Staff Employed at Hefce-funded HEIs - found that the number of academics under 30 at English universities declined from 12,205 in 1995-96 to 10,335 in 2010-11 despite overall staff levels growing by almost a third.

Overall, the proportion of academics under 30 fell from 14 per cent to 8 per cent in that 15-year period, while the proportion of over-sixties within the academy rose from 5 per cent to 9 per cent.

In terms of total numbers, the population of academics aged 60 or older almost trebled - rising from 3,955 in 1995-96 to 11,160 in 2010-11.

Most of those past the age of 60 (62 per cent) worked full-time, while 26 per cent were part-time and 12 per cent were doing very low levels of academic activity, the report said.

Geoff Whitty, the former director of the Institute of Education, University of London, said the changing age profile of the academy raised serious questions about the recruitment of "new blood" into the sector.

Last year's abolition of the default retirement age, coupled with increased financial worries caused by the recession, were likely to prompt academics to work longer, exacerbating the trend, said Professor Whitty, now professor of public sector policy and management at the University of Bath.

"I think there will be a temptation for academics to stay on because they can," he said.

"This will create problems in terms of freeing up funds to employ new blood."

However, Professor Whitty said the report, published last month, covered "a time when funding for universities increased significantly". …

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