The Association of University Teachers has declared itself "astonished" at the employers' refusal to hold negotiations next week unless industrial action is suspended. It should not be: both sides know that the outcome of the dispute hinges on the post-Easter examination period, so anything that could bring about a protracted suspension of the unions' assessment boycott might be worth trying. That is, of course, also the reason that no suspension was ever remotely likely.
The new conditions on talks will make an already intractable dispute even harder to resolve. To demand a suspension of industrial action may follow well-established principles, but it serves no practical purpose in this case. The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association has accused the unions -with reason - of rushing into confrontation before negotiation has been given a chance. Now they are sacrificing some of the high ground by doing the same themselves.