University academic staff will receive well over £100 million in back pay following the Association of University Teachers' vote to accept the employers' revised pay offer.
More than 84 per cent of union members voted to accept the improved pay offer. Academic staff will have the increase backdated to August 1 2003.
The rise is 3.44 per cent for last year and 3 per cent for 2004. The AUT estimates this could mean up to £120 million in back pay.
More than 22,000 AUT members, just over half the union's membership, voted in the three-week ballot. The AUT has called off strike action and an assessment boycott.
The union said the improved offer removed the threat of losses of career earnings and protected the pay and grading link between academic and related staff. It expected workers at the bottom end of pay scales in particular to enjoy significant pay rises.
Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, said: "We will have to work hard with the employers to ensure that we achieve pay harmonisation across the sector. The onus is now on the employers to deliver on the agreement."
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association welcomed the AUT's decision to fall in line with the other six unions that represent workers in the sector.
Jocelyn Prudence, Ucea chief executive, said: "It is extremely good news.
Staff throughout the higher education sector will now be able to benefit from immediate pay increases and from the long-needed modernisation of pay structures."
The new pay framework will see job evaluations introduced at all institutions by 2006 when university staff move to a single pay spine.