A recent report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) indicates that the number of scholars aged 60+ in English universities has risen sharply over the last years, while the number of younger academics is decreasing.
The report, which looks at the changing profile of people working in the sector over the past 15 years, founds that the number of scholars aged 60 or older has increased from 3,955 in 1995-96 to 11,160 in 2010-11. On the contrary, over the same period, the number of academics under the age of 30 working at English universities has declined from 12,205 (1995-96) to 10,335 (2010-11), despite overall staff levels growing by almost a third.
The report indicates that 62 per cent of academics over 60 work full-time, 26 per cent part-time and 12 per cent are doing very low levels of academic activity.
The abolition of the default retirement age and the increase of financial pressure caused by the recession are seen as two of the main reasons why academics choose to work longer.
Geoff Whitty, the former director of the Institute of Education, University of London, has declared to Times Higher Education that he believes “there will be a temptation for academics to stay on because they can”. He also points out that “the next report will show the impact of the recession and recent changes to the retirement age.”
Changes to pensions are likely to drive academics to work for longer. According to Michael MacNeil, head of higher education at the University and College Union: “We need to ensure that changes to pensions do not deter staff from retiring at a time of their choosing.”
The report “Staff employed at HEFCE-funded HEIs: Trends and profiles 1995-96 to 2010-11” can be read in full here.