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HE pay and salaries

UCU negotiates nationally with the employers' body, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) over pay and conditions for academic and research staff, and, in pre-1992 institutions, for academic-related staff. These negotiations take place within the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES).


updated : updatedOngoing 2013-14 pay dispute and the joint union claim 2014-5

The Higher education unions submitted a joint claim to the employers for 2013-14 intended to try to reverse the historic attack on our salaries, the erosion of job security and the entrenchment of inequality in our sector.

The claim included a pay offer that matches inflation and starts to address the four year erosion in your pay; a national agreement on workloads and working hours guidance; nationally agreed measures to avoid compulsory redundancy and to address the gender pay gap; all hourly paid staff to be put on the national pay spine; and an agreement on disability leave.

The unions rejected the employers' final offer and entered into an industrial dispute. For the latest information and to download campaign materials, go to our fair pay campaign site page.

UCU's Higher Education Committee (HEC) agreed that in the context of the ongoing pay dispute arising from the 2013-14 claim (see below), the 2014-15 claim should be as straightforward as possible and in no way be understood as UCU withdrawing or abandoning its claim for 2013/14.

The 2014-15 claim is therefore an updated version of the claim for 2013-14. After discussion this without prejudice approach was agreed with other HE trade unions and the joint claim has now submitted to the employer's representatives at UCEA:

 (.pdf) file type icon Joint HE union claim 2014-15 (.pdf) [423kb]





Key background

Single pay spine

Prior to 2004 there were a number of different pay grading structures within UK HE. In 2004 UCU members - then as AUT and NATFHE - accepted a significant new agreement - 'The Framework Agreement for the modernisation of pay structures'. This led to higher education salary arrangements undergoing major change and individual universities have been required to implement new pay and grading arrangements mapped to a national single pay spine, effective from no later than 1 August 2006.

The national single pay spine, on which local grading arrangements will now be based, is negotiated by the academic sub-committee of JNCHES. UCU, as the largest UK union for academic and academic-related staff, is the majority union on this sub-committee.

Negotiating structures review

Arrangements for the negotiating structure have recently been revised. See HE negotiating structures review 2007/8 for further information.

Pay framework implementation

Many positive local agreements have now been successfully concluded by local negotiators working alongside our head office HE team and regional offices. However, a few have yet to be agreed. In exceptional circumstances, where universities are attempting to bypass the national agreement, full resources are being channelled to provide support for our members on the ground.

Further detailed information on the pay framework is available here

JNCHES working groups

Following on from the unsatisfactory conclusion of the 2009-10 New JNCHES national claim negotiations, UCEA and the national trade union side agreed to establish 3 working groups that would potentially enable a greater degree of joint working to take place on key elements of the joint trade union claim; job security, equality issues and fair pay.

The following groups were set up and involved both UCEA/employer representatives and representatives from the HE trade unions:

  • Equality Working Group
  • Pay Framework and Data Research Working Group
  • Sustainability Issues Working Group

The work of these groups was undertaken during 2010 and the final reports for two of the groups, Equalities and Pay Framework and Data are now available. Further work however continues to be undertaken in respect of the Sustainability Issues group.

The UCU experience of participating in the groups varied. Of the reports emanating from the 3 working-groups, we have only endorsed that coming out of the Equality Working Group. The report can be downloaded here:  (.pdf) file type icon Equality Working Group Overview Report, Jan 11 (.pdf) [2.2Mb]

In relation to the Pay Framework and Data Research Working Group, the UCU view is that the group was unable to fulfil its terms of reference mandate, and we were unable to endorse its work. A report has therefore been published without the UCU badge.

In relation to the Sustainability Issues Working Group, the UCU position is that the group has disappointingly failed to achieve key aspects of its terms of reference, specifically in the context of workforce planning and organisational change and shared values. We are unable to support the HE financial health and sustainability report that has emerged from the group as it is incomplete and has, from a UCU perspective, problematic financial data representation. This document has not therefore been circulated under the New JNCHES badge.

An insiders guide to finance was also produced to aid negotiators from the employer and employees side. This is a useful tool, which we have therefore endorsed. The guide can be downloaded here:  (.pdf) file type icon An Insider’s Guide to Finance and Accounting in Higher Education (.pdf) [1.6Mb]


UCU and HE pay

Negotiating nationally on your behalf

The over-arching Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) deals with matters common to the academic sub-committee and another, non-academic, group. 

As well as representing you in salary negotiations, we also represent members' pensions interests through member trustees on the Universities Superannuation Scheme and Teachers' Pension Scheme. See the pensions section for more on our pensions work.

Keeping you informed

UCU works hard to make sure members are kept fully informed about developments in HE pay and grading arrangements. In this website section you will find the latest information on all of our work under JNCHES, including grading arrangements and work towards equal pay.

We also run email lists, and send out briefings and letters to members to communicate directly any important information members need to know. Contact head of campaigns Justine Stephens for further information.

Collective strength

One of the benefits of membership of UCU is the collective strength it gives us in pay, as well as other negotiations. This is even more important now that additional negotiating work within higher education has been devolved down to branches and local associations.

If you are not a UCU member, make sure you join us today and further strengthen our negotiating position.

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