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Eurydice report: Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Academic Staff – overview of 35 higher education systems

The Eurydice report “Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Academic Staff” looks into the national higher education landscapes of 35 European countries (EU28 + EFTA/EEA + candidate countries) through the context in which academic staff operate. The aim of the report is to provide a comparative overview of a range of workplace-related aspects that define “the realities” of teaching and research staff at higher education institutions (HEIs) in these countries. Drawing on several information sources (Eurydice National Units, international organisations’ reports, surveys and statistical databases), the report combines qualitative and quantitative data to examine similarities and specificities in qualification requirements, recruitment practices and working conditions, quality assurance and evaluation of academic staff, as well as the relevance given to internationalisation and staff mobility in the national systems and HEIs in the countries covered by the study.

Some of the similarities across the majority of countries to which the study points are very scarce large-scale opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) of teaching staff, hand in hand with few legal requirements for teaching practice in doctoral programmes. Still, teaching and research are the most common topics evaluated by external quality assurance agencies, both at programme and institutional level. When it comes to recruitment, there is a visible persisting gender imbalance, although 24 higher education systems have legislation on equal opportunities in place. This gap is the greatest among the higher ranks, where less than one in three professors are female. Looking at the working conditions in terms of the workload and contractual status, junior staff in most countries are in a more precarious position with mainly project-based or fixed-term contracts. Their duties largely pertain to teaching as compared to their senior colleagues, who engage much less in teaching assignments.


Internationalisation is considered a high priority at large, if judging by the defined strategic approaches to internationalisation in the majority of higher education systems – even though internationalisation vis-à-vis the work of academic staff is predominantly linked to mobility. At the same time, there is little data on staff mobility across the systems, but many countries report having set up some kind of monitoring mechanisms of staff mobility flows.

Despite a certain level of comparability across the 35 higher education systems analysed in the study, stark differences in academic staff categories are observable across national systems. For a better overview, the report provides diagrams with visual representations of national systems by the categories examined wherever data is available, although, it calls for more comparative research on academic employment and working conditions. 

Eurydice - Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Academic Staff (full report)