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Pay negotiating in higher education

Negotiating arrangements between the UCU and the employers over pay and grading arrangements are ending a period of transition.

National negotiating and annual up-rating

The annual up-rating of the single pay spine remains the subject of national negotiation for implementation on 1 August each year. This work is carried out through Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) - also referred to as 'New JNCHES' due to changes to arrangements in 2008. UCU, as the largest UK union for academic and academic-related staff, was the majority union on this sub-committee. 

The vast majority of UK higher education institutions are part of these national negotiating structures.

 (.pdf) file type icon New JNCHES Agreement, March 2013 (.pdf) [383kb]

See also: HE national agreements and guidance

Local framework implementation

In April 2004 members from the higher educations unions agreed to the implementation of a new pay and grading framework. The underpinning framework agreement, as it is known, introduced a new national single 51 point pay spine. This replaced the numerous separate staff group pay scales which were in existence and covers everyone working in higher education, from ancillary and support staff through to the staff whom UCU represents.

How staff grades map across to this single spine must be applied locally; in other words, the associated pay and grading structures are negotiated by local UCU LAs and branches with their individual institutions.

The implementation of the HE pay framework agreement and its new national single pay spine, and associated grading structures, continues to take place at individual institutions around the country.

Institutions across the UK are at different stages in the implementation of the new framework. Employers were required under the terms of the agreement to complete implementation by 1 August 2006 at the latest. While many have achieved this, with the deadline now long passed, UCU branches and local associations are increasing the pressure to ensure implementation happens as quickly as possible in the remaining institutions, with backdating to an effective implementation date of 1 August 2006. Please contact your local association or regional office for details of the progress at your institution.

Throughout these negotiations, post-1992 branches have been using as a basis the structures in Appendix C of the Framework Agreement, and for pre-92 local associations UCU's preferred pre-92 grading model.

At many institutions implementation has now been agreed, in some cases improving upon the preferred models as a result of negotiations by UCU local negotiators. However, there will, in the end, be limited variations between the grading structures of individual institutions.

We are striving hard both nationally and locally to work closely with other campus unions over the implementation of the framework.

Negotiator's Resources

Resources are available for LA and branch negotiators on implementing the framework agreement, including as amended by the pre-92 Memorandum of Understanding.

  • HE national negotiations 2013-14 & 2014-15
    UCU members took industrial action and action short of a strike in response to the employers' failure to make HE members a proper pay offer for 2013-14. This included one day and two-hour strikes, and working to contract. The 2013-14 dispute ended when a conditional 2014-15 offer was accepted.
  • HE national negotiations 2013
    Information on the national negotiations 2013-14.
  • HE national negotiations 2012
    Background on the national negotiations for 2012-13.
  • HE national negotiations 2011
    Information on the national negotiations 2011-12.
  • HE national negotiations 2010
    The joint union national claim for 2010 was submitted to the University and College Employers' Association (UCEA) in March 2010.
  • HE national negotiations 2009
    All the news from UCU head office on the national HE negotiations on pay and job losses.
  • HE negotiating structures review 2007/8
    The 2006 pay deal included an agreement to review the national structures for negotiating pay - the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES).
  • Pay context - Dearing and Bett
    In 1997, Sir Ron Dearing chaired a National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, which recognised that many higher education staff were paid well below comparable public and private sector rates.
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