The Italian Jobs

The latest data on staff employed at English universities shows that there were 168,000 academic staff employed in 2015-16.  This comes as a result of an increase of around 8.7 per cent since 2012-13.

We’ve developed an interactive tool that shows the nationalities of the academic workforce in England. The data refers to the academic year in which the European Union (EU) referendum took place, so the result of the vote will have had no effect on the employment decisions of the staff included, but we hope the tool will help to describe the profile of the academic workforce prior to the referendum.

The tool shows that academic staff come from across the world and there are few countries from which there is no-one. Overall, about 30 per cent of academic staff (approximately 49,000 people) come from outside the UK.

This proportion has been increasing as the number of non-UK staff went up by 25 per cent since 2012-13, compared with a 4.5 per cent increase in UK staff. It breaks down as a 29 per cent increase in EU nationals and 20 per cent from the rest of the world.

This means that roughly two-thirds of new jobs since 2012-13 have been filled by staff who came originally from outside the UK.

More international staff are Italian than any other nationality

Among all international academic staff in England, more than half (56 per cent) come from EU member countries, and more come from Italy than anywhere else in the world. This is the result of a maintained year-on-year growth rate of around 12 per cent over the last three years.

The number of staff coming from Italy has risen from 3,400 in 2012-13 to 4,700 in 2015-16, which was around 9.7 per cent of all international staff. This surpassed the 4,600 staff from Germany, who accounted for around 9.5 per cent. As we’ve highlighted previously, the UK has been an attractive place to come to work for academics from countries undergoing public sector austerity.


After Italy and Germany, the United States and China are the third and fourth most common countries of origin for academic staff. Chinese staff are particularly likely to be working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, as 66 per cent are in STEM compared with 32 per cent of all academic staff.

It is not uncommon for staff from some countries to be over-represented in some disciplines. Staff from the EU are disproportionately likely to be in maths and physics, while around 40 per cent of staff teaching Modern Foreign Language subjects are from the EU.

International staff more likely to be in research intensive universities

International staff tend to be younger, 61 per cent of them being aged under 40 compared with 31 per cent of UK staff, and are more likely to be employed at research-intensive universities.

49 per cent of staff aged under 40 at high-tariff institutions are known to be from outside the UK. This compares with 38 per cent for medium-tariff and 28 per cent for low-tariff institutions.


The consequence of this is that many of the academic staff employed on fixed-term contracts to work on research projects are from outside the UK. Almost half (46 per cent) of the staff employed on research-only contracts are non-UK nationals, compared to around a quarter of staff on teaching and teaching and research contracts (21 and 25 per cent) respectively.

Given that young researchers on non-permanent contracts are probably those with the weakest ties, it seems likely that if Brexit reduces the attractiveness of jobs in the UK then these roles may be most affected.

In any case, there will be considerable interest in the HESA Staff Record next year as it will be for the first academic year following the EU referendum.