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HE negotiations 2022-23

24 October 2022

Information on the UK-wide higher education negotiations for 2022-23 which take place within the Joint National Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES).

Next steps

Staff at universities across the UK will strike for five days later this month in a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions. UCU members will strike for five consecutive days from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September with strikes hitting four Scottish universities on slightly different dates to coincide with local action by other unions.

Staff at five Scottish universities to strike this week in rows over pay deductions, pay and working conditions

Start of university term to be hit with five days of UK-wide strikes

In a consultation called by our higher education committee (HEC) on the next steps in the marking and assessment boycott (MAB) in our pay and conditions dispute, 60% of members voting indicated they were in favour of suspending the MAB.   

The HEC motion that called for the consultation was clear that if a majority were in favour of standing down the MAB then this should be done within a week of the survey closing. In line with this motion, today, our union has written to your employers to withdraw the MAB. This means that the HEC is no longer asking you to boycott your marking and assessment.

UCU Rising: important update on the MAB and strike action

Please click here for more details on what this suspension will mean for you if you have marking and assessment responsibilities

More strike action will take place across UK universities unless UCEA agrees to return to negotiations and end disruption to graduations. The Higher Education Committee met this afternoon and voted to take further strike action before the end of September  and to begin preparations for a new ballot in order to renew UCU's industrial mandate in the pay and working conditions dispute, meaning disruption could continue this year and well into 2024.

After negotiations with our employers broke down an emergency Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting has been called on 14 August which will make decisions on the marking and assessment boycott, and the next steps in our pay and conditions dispute. This includes making decisions on further industrial action and a ballot.

We need as many members as possible to feed into the HEC's decision-making our elected negotiators will be hosting a briefing on Zoom On Wednesday 9th August, followed by a Branch Delegate Meeting on Friday 11 August. Make sure that you reach out to your reps to let them know your views.

New talks

Ahead of planned talks this week UCU received a letter from the UCEA board setting out their postion. Their position is to offer nothing, and it rules any kind of interim agreement entirely out of reach. Employers are refusing to consider offering anything extra on pay, and in the absence of this neither are they offering anything to redress the punitive pay deductions many members have suffered for participating in the marking and assessment boycott.  

While the marking and assessment boycott continues we are now planning to take legal action against the punitive deductions, and well as planning for and building toward a fresh ballot.

Read more:

During the latest negotiating meeting the employers refused to countenance any redress for members who have been subjected to grossly unfair and punitive pay deductions for backing the boycott. A further meeting will take place on 26 July: Read the full update.

Joint statement from UCU and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) on today's talks:

Today's exploratory talks between UCEA, UCU and the other joint unions' side secretary were constructive, although there is still significant ground to be covered. We have explored obstacles to resuming negotiations and bringing an end to the Marking and Assessment Boycott, with both sides recognising the complexity of the issues. Both sides welcomed the positive tone of the discussion and have identified dates for further urgent talks. Further discussion will also take place with the Joint HE Trade Unions to consider the scope and remit of a review of sector finances. 

Marking and assessment boycott continues

On 4 July 2023, UCU received a letter from UCEA confirming their willingness to enter urgent negotiations to explore the potential of reaching an agreement to settle our dispute.

Members will be fully aware of the terms UCU would want to see in any final agreement - these were out in communications to employers last week. Those are the terms on which UCU will seek to reach an agreement - regardless of any positions UCEA have set out.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady told members. 'UCEA have said that they will not attend talks with preconditions, specifically citing the return of deductions as something they are not willing to concede now as a guarantee. It is important nevertheless that we meet with them to establish if we can negotiate for an outcome that members deserve. Meeting is always the right thing to do.'

Arrangements are now being made to finalise the date and time for the meeting. In the meantime the dispute and industrial action continue.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are being given one final opportunity to enter into negotiations to resolve the UK wide dispute, UCU general secretary Jo Grady reported today: Update on employer negotiations and the marking and assessment boycott

UCEA needs to stop spinning and fix its national degree scandal, UCU said today in response to UCEA's claims about the impact of the marking boycott: UCEA needs to 'stop spinning'

Vice-chancellors threatening to dock staff pay for taking part in the marking and assessment boycott should instead donate part of their own salary for failing to bring forward an improved offer to end the dispute, UCU said today. University leaders are failing in their duty to protect students by not pushing UCEA to get back to negotiations with a better offer and bring an end to the marking and assessment boycott: University bosses should deduct their own salaries for 'partial performance'

The joint trade unions write to UCEA on their refusal to engage in negotiations [861kb] without pre-conditions.

The employers have been criticised for formally refusing to negotiate in our ongoing pay and conditions dispute after new analysis showed employers can easily afford to make an improved pay offer. UK Universities generated more money than ever last year, yet staff expenditure has hit rock bottom, reveals new analysis from UCU. It shows the surplus universities generated could have raised staff pay by 10% with hundreds of millions to spare: New analysis reveals record university income as employers refuse to negotiate

The joint trade unions write to UCEA urging it to reconsider its position and return to the negotiating table: Joint union letter to UCEA, 11 May 23 [112kb]

Reballot, consultation and marking boycott: April 2023

More than 50 MPs from five different political parties have written to the body representing university vice-chancellors to condemn threats to deduct up to 100% of staff wages for taking part in a marking and assessment boycott: Scores of MPs and Peers condemn brutal university staff pay deductions

A marking and assessment boycott commenced today at 145 UK universities after employers failed to produce an improved offer in the pay & conditions dispute.

Earlier this week, UCU members working in UK higher education voted to reject pay & conditions proposals agreed with employers.  

A marking and assessment boycott will cover all marking and assessment, including that in writing, online, or verbally. The boycott will also cover any assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the administrative processing of marks. This is expected to impact graduations. 

Marking and assessment boycott to hit 145 UK universities from tomorrow

In a formal consultation members voted by 56% to reject proposals agreed with employers. 

The rejection of the pay and conditions proposals means a marking and assessment boycott will now commence at 145 UK universities on Thursday 20 April, unless employers put an enhanced offer on the table. Last month, UCU successfully renewed its industrial action mandate, allowing industrial action to be called for a further six months. 

Read more here on the formal consultation results here.

UCU has served notice to employers of a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) to begin on Thursday 20 April in our ongoing pay and conditions dispute. This means that from Thursday 20 April members are asked to cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties. The boycott also covers assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the processing of marks: find out more information here

UCU announced it has successfully renewed its strike mandate at UK universities for a further six months, telling employers that 'university staff are in the driving seat.'

In the pay and working conditions ballot, the yes vote for strike action was 85.6% and the turnout was 56.4%. The yes vote is up on the previous ballot.

University staff renew strike mandate with historic ballot result

UCU's Higher Education Committee has decided that the proposals in the pay dispute should go out to a full member consultation - this will commence on Tuesday 4 April 2023: Formal consultation on employers' proposals and announcing our reballot result

The joint trade unions issued a statement that notes UCEA's position in relation to further industrial action. The unions' statement says they wish to make it clear that 'we will not agree to any cessation of industrial action up front for the next 12 months and that the unions and UCEA must respect our trade union democratic processes': JNCHES joint TU statement 23Mar23 [568kb]

Action: February-March 2023

University employers today made proposals in the dispute over pay and working conditions.

The proposals pave the way for the end the use of involuntary zero-hour contracts in higher education, and to agree new standards, frameworks and principles to tackle other forms of casualised contracts, reduce workloads and close equality pay gaps.

The proposals will now move through our democratic processes, and strike action will continue until our 70,000 UCU members have had the chance to have their say: Employers make offers in university disputes

Following a further round of talks at Acas, the joint unions today issued this statement: Talks between UCEA and the HE trades unions continue. Following progress on terms of reference for a review of the UK HE pay spine, the focus is now on terms of reference covering equality pay gaps, contract types, and workload. Work continues with a further meeting scheduled with ACAS on 14 March 2023.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady today announced an additional day of strike action on 15 March 2023.

Action paused: UCU Rising: strike paused, campaign continues

UCU today announced significant progress [81kb] in negotiations with the employers in our pay & conditions dispute. In our pay and working conditions negotiations we are establishing time limited negotiations for new agreements on:

  • tackling casualisation
  • improving work life balance and reducing workloads
  • addressing equality pay gaps.

UCEA are currently consulting their members with a recommendation that they give them a mandate to end the use of involuntary zero hour contracts on campus. We have also made progress on pay with the removal of the lowest point from the pay scale, and a review of the pay spine that will benefit everyone.

To allow our ongoing negotiations to continue in a constructive environment UCU has agreed to pause strike action for the next two weeks.

UCU and the four other higher education unions (EIS, GMB, UNISON and Unite) and employer representative UCEA have agreed to further talks mediated by conciliation service Acas. The discussions will begin on Monday 13 February. Acas-mediated talks are intended to address the issues in dispute, which include pay, equality, job insecurity and workloads.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said in a message to members, 'I do not want to overplay the importance of this development because there is still a long way to go but this is another clear sign that your magnificent support, and the magnificent support of our members, for our union is working.'

It was today confirmed that two further days of strike action at UK universities are going ahead on 9 and 10 February after staff rejected the employers' pay offer: University strikes escalate after staff reject 'low-ball' offer

Members of UCU have voted by 80.4% to reject the latest pay offer from employer body UCEA. The eballot was open for four days with tens of thousands of UCU members backing UCU's position to reject the offer. Over 30,000 voted in the poll conducted over just four days this week.

At the latest negotiating meeting the employers continue to insist on a real-terms pay cut for 2023/4 which fails to address the 2022/23 dispute.

Seventeen further dates of strike action have been called for February and March to follow on from the next strike date of 1 February. The dates are: 

  • Week 1 - Wednesday 1 February  
  • Week 2 - Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February 
  • Week 3 - Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February 
  • Week 4 - Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February 
  • Week 5 - Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March 
  • [No action week commencing Monday 6 March] 
  • Week 6 - Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March 
  • Week 7 - Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March.

It was announced today that members will be called to take strike action on Wednesday 1 February. A further 17 days of strike action is due to take place over February and March. The precise dates are to be announced by the union next week: 70,000 university staff to strike on 1 February

UCU higher education committee (HEC) decided today that members will be called to strike for 18 days between February and March in the disputes over pay, conditions and attacks on pensions. The precise dates of the action will be confirmed next week: Universities to be hit with 18 days of strike action before April

The committee also agreed to re-ballot staff at all 150 universities to renew UCU's mandate and allow the union to call action well into 2023, including a marking and assessment boycott from April, unless the disputes are settled. 

UCU has announced 18 further days of strike action between February and March in disputes over pay, conditions and attacks on pensions. The precise dates of the action will be confirmed next week. The higher education committee (HEC) also agreed to re-ballot staff at all 150 universities to renew UCU's mandate and allow the union to call action well into 2023 unless the disputes are settled. A marking and assessment boycott due to begin in January will now be called from April.

Although UCEA made UCU an initial pay offer for the upcoming 2023-24 pay round worth between 4% and 5% yesterday they made no further improvement on the 3% pay increased for 2022-23 over which the current action is taking place.

Update on branch delegate meeting

UCU higher education branches sent over 250 delegates to the branch delegate meeting (BDM) which took place on 10 January 2023 to debate the next steps in our UCU Rising dispute and to relay the outcome of recent branch consultation meetings.

The weighted results of the votes were as follows:

Strike action

Do you support either:

(i) A strategy of escalating strike action, involving a pattern of escalating days of action through February, March, and April, engaging members again in March/April to take stock of the dispute situation and to agree any further strike action if needed.


(ii) A strategy of all-out indefinite strike action, involving taking industrial action every day, starting in February and continuing until members vote to end the action, or the ballot mandate(s) expire(s).

Option (i) (escalating strike action) - 57%

Option (ii) (indefinite strike action) - 31%

Abstain - 11%

Marking and assessment boycott (MAB)

Do you support either:

(i) A MAB beginning on January 23.


(ii) A MAB beginning on April 17 to target all final/end of year summative assessments beginning that month.

Option (i) (January MAB) - 26%

Option (ii) (April MAB) - 56%

Abstain - 17%


Do you support sending the strongest possible message to the employers by immediately announcing our intention to re-ballot to renew our mandate for further action?

Yes (immediate re-ballot) - 91%

No (no immediate re-ballot) - 4%

Abstain - 5%

The higher education committee (HEC) will now use these results and the debates that occurred in the meeting to inform their decision-making in the meeting on Thursday 12 January 2023 to decide our union's next steps. 

Negotiations updates

Negotiations took place between UCEA (the employers) and the unions (EIS, GMB, UNISON, Unite and ourselves) on 9 January 2023.

Unfortunately, UCEA have again failed to table an offer and have instead called on all of the unions to suspend any industrial action in order to progress negotiations. Of course, your elected negotiators could not accept such a demand and will continue to press for a meaningful offer from UCEA in our next negotiation meeting on 16 January.

You can read a full summary of the meeting here and you can read a response from our general secretary Jo Grady here.

Our elected negotiators will continue to negotiate on your behalf and keep you updated with any developments. 

The employers' representatives UCEA and the joint unions (EIS, GMB, UNISON, Unite, UCU) met again on 13 December. Our elected negotiators turned up ready to negotiate in good faith, but UCEA declined to put any offer on the table amid a cost of living crisis which is creating hardship for higher education employees, despite admitting they do have money they could pay in February 2023.

Below is our jointly agreed statement and you can read the response from our general secretary here.

Please read the joint union statement below.

We met with the employers on 30 November. At that meeting the employers asked us to agree to open the 2023-4 pay round early. Then, without the join unions' agreement, the employers posted what was referred to as a 'joint statement' on their website, even though this had not been jointly agreed.

We met again yesterday on 13 December. We attended in good faith, expecting to hear the employers' introduction to negotiations and receive their opening offer. However, the employers wasted the whole meeting discussing this statement, which related to the mechanism and process of the negotiations, insisting that we confirm that we would cease all industrial action during the negotiating process. When we did not agree to this, as we were unable to do so due to our own internal democratic processes, they then refused to move into negotiations without going back to consult their board about the amended process and mechanism that we told them we could sign up to.

UCEA informed us that they did have a figure that they would have presented to us as an opening offer if we had agreed to stop industrial action related to the 2022-3 pay dispute during the negotiations. When we refused to agree to this they refused to engage in negotiations.

The joint unions are disappointed that while we turned up ready to negotiate in good faith, UCEA declined to put any offer on the table amidst a cost of living crisis which is creating hardship for higher education employees, despite admitting they do have money they could pay in February 2023.

The meeting was adjourned at the employers' request and we look forward to the employers returning to negotiations as soon as possible. We would invite them to send us their offer in writing before the Christmas break.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady writes to members with the latest on our recent negotiations with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). She reported:

'The employers' position is that the 2022-23 negotiations over pay, during which we had a 3% pay increase imposed, have closed. However, recognising that workers are facing a cost of living crisis, and recognising the strength of anger shown by our ballot results and our strike action, they have offered to bring forward negotiations over the 2023-24 pay round with the aim of reaching a deal on pay covering the next 18 months. 

'Whether such a deal is acceptable to us will inevitably depend on what is offered, and to-date the unions have received no offer. However, were an inflation-linked offer to be made, we would want to hear it, alongside discussions about how we improve non pay related elements of our dispute. We also intend to pursue talks about the 22-23 pay round.

'In the spirit of attempting to reach agreement, the joint unions agreed to intensive negotiations between now and the end of January, with further negotiations continuing into February and beyond as required on the other heads of the 22-23 claim.

'We have called on employers to demonstrate good faith during this negotiating period by not pursuing punitive pay deductions as a result of ASOS that would cause UCU branches to consider strike action in response. We have had positive discussions on this matter, but nothing is firm yet.'

The joint unions (UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB, and EIS) met with representatives of the employers (UCEA) on 30 November. There were constructive discussions about developing a way forward and both sides agreed to enter into urgent negotiations between now and 31 January 2023 with a view to resolving both the 2022/23 pay round, on which the current dispute is based, and the 2023/24 pay round.

Biggest ever picket lines

Strike action at higher education institutions across the UK started today, with UCU's biggest ever picket lines, as members fight for improved pay & conditions. UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Our members deserve a proper pay rise and the money is there to deliver it. Vice-chancellors now need to urgently address the concerns of staff otherwise our 70,000 members will escalate this dispute into next year.'

Members at 150 universities will strike for three days in November over attacks on pay, working conditions and pensions it was announced today.

The full strike dates in November are:

  • Thursday 24 November
  • Friday 25 November
  • Wednesday 30 November.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said 'Our message to the employers for these three days is very clear - put a proper offer on the table or this is just the start of our fight back.'

Members vote overwhelmingly for action

On a turnout of over 57%, breaking the 50% threshold set by anti-union legislation, around 80% of members who voted said yes to taking industrial action over pay and conditions claim:

National pay & conditions ballot scrutineer's report [276kb]
Northern Ireland pay & conditions ballot scrutineer's report [257kb]

Read the full story here: University staff vote for UK-wide strike action in historic ballot

It was announced today that strike ballots will open at UK universities on Tuesday 6 September over pay and working conditions, alongside a second ballot over pension cuts.

UCU has also called for universities to scrap vanity projects and use their spare cash and to invest in staff after it was revealed the sector generated record income last year and are planning a £4.6bn splurge on 'vanity projects' as staff pay falls 25%.

Dispute process ends without resolution

UCU will move ahead with a ballot for industrial after vice-chancellors again failed to make an improvement on their 3% pay offer, despite acknowledging the impact of the cost of living crisis on staff. With the dispute process now concluded preparations for an industrial action ballot in the autumn are now under way: University strike ballot a step closer as vice-chancellors refuse to improve pay offer

You can read UCEA's confirmed final offer for 2022-23 here. [295kb].

This week higher education unions met with the employers' organisation UCEA who refused to improve their derisory pay offer for 2022-23 of 3%. You can read the joint union statement on the meeting here.

UCU has now received a full and final offer from UCEA, the employers' representatives, in respect of the 2022-23 pay round: UCEA: final pay offer 2022-23, May 22 [311kb]

This was a marginally improved offer on pay which will mean 3% for UCU members and progressively more for the lowest paid. The initial offer was 2.75%.

The joint unions have written to all vice-chancellors & principals asking them to contact UCEA and ensure that a 'serious offer' which addresses the trade unions' claim  must now be made at the final meeting on 5 May: JNCHES negotiations 2022-23: joint union letter, 29 April 2022 [105kb]

The employers increased their offer by another 0.15% during the second negotiating meeting on 25 April. The joint unions have responded by issuing a  statement which said 'in the context of the real suffering we know our members are currently experiencing, we found this to be a woefully inadequate response': JNCHES negotiations 2022-23: joint union statement, 26 April 2022 [28kb]

An initial offer was received from the employers on 21 April. This offer fell well short of the joint pay claim. It involved an offer of a 2.75% sub-inflationary rise on the majority of pay points, with bottom loading on pay points 3-19 ranging from 6% at point 3 to 2.8% at point 19, to accommodate the legal requirement to meet the new national minimum wage. It also included a rise in all other pay related allowance by the same percentage points, and an offer to continue talks to progress all other elements of the joint claim: JNCHES negotiations 2022-23: UCEA opening offer [396kb]

Following the first negotiating meeting the joint unions issued a statement which stated they 'were forced to conclude that UCEA had no intention of negotiating seriously': JNCHES negotiations 2022-23: joint union statement, 4 April 2022 [122kb]

Joint HE trade union claim submitted

The higher education joint trade union claim 2022/23 has been agreed by the five HE trade unions; UNISON, Unite, EIS, GMB and UCU, and has been submitted to the employer's representatives at UCEA in advance of the first JNCHES negotiating meeting on 30 March: HE unions' claim 2022-23 [399kb]

The claim, which among other matters covers UCU's core Four Fight demands; a pay rise for all that is above inflation, intersectional pay inequality, dealing with excessive workloads, stress and mental health issues, and addressing wide spread precarious contracts, which includes a specific claim for graduate teaching assistant and postgraduate researcher employment security, is both ambitious and timely.

The outcome of last year's JNCHES negotiations led to the 'live' Four Fights dispute. This year the onus is on UCEA to demonstrate leadership and to match the union's ambition, by making an offer that addresses the decline in member's pay and the cost of living squeeze, tackling pay inequality, reducing workloads and casualisation, as well as dealing with structural issues with the pay spine.

The JNCHES negotiating timetable for 2022/23:

  • meeting 1 - Wednesday 30 March 2022  
  • meeting 2 - Monday 25 April 2022
  • meeting 3 - Thursday 5 May 2022.

Branches will be updated with developments during the negotiations.

List of participating UCEA institutions for 2022-23.

Last updated: 19 September 2023