Universities have a wide range of occupations, varied occupational hazards (especially in research), and complex occupational health needs. Universities vary widely in size, subjects taught, and research areas. Therefore, their needs for occupational health provision vary. HEOPS offers guidance on the structure and staffing of occupational health provision within higher education.

In summary, the following recommendations are distilled from our guidance, which can be downloaded from this website:

Specialist provision

All universities should have access to at least one specialist in occupational medicine and a specialist in occupational health nursing.

Staffing formula

HEOPS recommends a staffing formula based on number of staff and students, with an adjustment for the relatively high occupational health demands from students.

Management of services

Services should be managed by either a specialist occupational physician, or a specialist occupational health nurse.

Reporting arrangements

HEOPS recommends that the head of the service has a clearly-agreed “dotted line” reporting arrangement to the university Vice Chancellor (or equivalent) or Registrar (or equivalent) for any strategic matter affecting the health of university staff or students.

Committee attendance

Whatever the line management structure, and regardless of whether the head of the service is employed in-house or is an external contractor, HEOPS recommends that the head of the service (or his or her representative) attends relevant university committees on, for example, health and safety, disability, welfare, student health, human resources, risk management.

Management scope

Management scope should include management of staff, budget, professional responsibility for occupational health policy, accountability for the quality services, preparing an annual report of service activity and spending so that performance can be judged against agreed goals when setting annual budgets. Continuity of provision, sector and institution specific knowledge, access to the workplace and access to all institutional policies and procedures are important features of high quality OH services in the HE sector.


HEOPS offers the guidance below on occupational health resources and health surveillance, to help our member institutions identify the quantity and mixture of occupational health resources needed, and with the process of health surveillance in our unique occupational setting. A copy of HSG257 from the HSE is also provided below since this covers the UK higher education sector.