Three quarters of HE staff preparing to move

One of Australia’s largest independent surveys of higher education staff has found that 77% of respondents were open to moving jobs in the next 18 months. Key outcomes from the Future Campus survey of more than 3,000 higher education staff will be analysed over the next month, with some important insights for anyone leading teams in Australian Higher Education.

Take a good look at your colleagues because chances are more than three out of every four are looking to move to a new job before Christmas 2024, according to new survey results.

Just 22.7% of staff in one of Australia’s largest independent higher education workforce surveys ruled out changing jobs over the next 18 months in the survey A Moving Moment – Australian HE Workforce Trends 2023, produced by Future Campus.

The survey of more than 3,000 higher education staff, initiated by Future Campus publisher and Twig Marketing Founder Tim Winkler identified a range of significant trends – with the number of staff considering applying for a new job over the next 18 months being one of the most surprising.

Fig 1: Would you consider applying for a new job in the next 18 months?

While the proportion of people considering seeking a new role varied little by gender, and type of work, there was some variation according to age, with 38.6% of respondents over 55 refusing to seek a new role over the next 18 months, in comparison to 20.6% of staff under 35.

Fig 2: 61% of respondents aged over 55 would consider seeking a new job

Fig 3: 79% of under 35’s would consider seeking a new job in the next 18 months

While senior academic staff (ongoing role, Level D-E) may be expected to be more satisfied with their position, just 30% of the 549 respondents in this position ruled out looking for a new role in the next 18 months.

This suggests a high level of potential mobility and transition in the workforce over the next 18 months, with the majority of  staff at all levels looking for new opportunities.

These statistics have significant implications for everyone from leaders of small teams to organisational leaders, who need to set strategies in place to accommodate the aspirations and ambitions of staff for greener pastures.

The survey results are particularly significant given the ageing of the academic workforce. The latest statistics available from the Commonwealth show that 29% of Level D and E staff are aged 60+. 

Academic staff typically intended to continue working in the sector, regardless of whether they were in ongoing or casual roles. A total of 76 % of Level D and E staff and 81.5% of level A-C staff in ongoing roles thought they would be still working in the sector in 2028. At the same time, 82% of casual academic staff also expected to be working in HE in five years.

In contrast, Professional staff were less enamoured with their career in the sector, with just 58.7% expecting to work in HE in five years’ time. 

This was one of a number of statistics indicating a significant gap between the expectations and sense of belonging of professional and academic staff and raises questions about the success of university strategies in engaging the workforce in the mission of institutions.

The market research, conducted in April, attracted more than 3,000 responses, providing insights into a range of topics, including likelihood of changing jobs, workplace issues, wellbeing and workplace perceptions.

The results raise a range of questions for institutional leaders, including how to manage and support older workers; how to ensure succession planning in roles for staff of all ages, given the anticipated mobility; and how to keep high performing teams together in the face of huge potential personnel change.

The complexity of the higher education workforce and the pressing need for more targeted workforce planning is perhaps best expressed in the group aged 55+. While this group occupy the bulk of senior academic roles, many also work in lower-status roles, including as casuals, teaching staff or professional staff.

When looking at the plans that Staff aged over 55 have for work over the next 18 months, almost half (49.3%) indicated they intended to continue working in their current job. A further 28% intended to seek new jobs including 12.8% who intended to seek premotion in their current organisation and just 14% intended to retire.

Figure 4: Staff aged 55+ – plans for work over the next 18 months

There is a striking diversity of ambition amongst staff aged 55 and over – indeed just 28% of staff aged 65 and over planned to retire in the following 18 months. The survey also revealed many challenges ahead in managing disillusionment among key cohorts of older staff – emphasising the importance of improving understanding of drivers of staff satisfaction and performance into the future.



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