Five per cent pay rises are on the cards for lecturers in 2001-02 thanks to the extra Pounds 50 million earmarked for pay in the chancellor's Pounds 100 million spending review.
But lecturing unions say that they cannot wait that long and are pressing university employers to reopen pay negotiations for 2000-01. The offer is for 3 per cent in 2000-01. Unions say that the promise of extra money next year should free cash to better it.
David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "Universities that might otherwise be dipping into reserves might not have to do this now so we should have the pay rise immediately."
Natfhe's head of universities, Tom Wilson, said: "Talks were adjourned in July so we could see if there was anything for pay in the spending review. Clearly there is, so negotiations should restart."
But the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said that the additional Pounds 50 million is for 2001-02 and that 3 per cent is the final offer for 2000-01.
Education secretary David Blunkett wants the additional Pounds 50 million for the recruitment and retention of "top-quality academics". But funding council chiefs say that while they can issue guidance, money cannot be ring-fenced for top academics and that ultimately it will be up to universities to spend it as they see fit.
Overall, the extra Pounds 100 million takes the 2001-02 grant to the Higher Education Funding Council to more than Pounds 5.8 billion. It is a 4.6 per cent rise in real terms over this year. But the key figure is the unit of funding for teaching, the amount universities have to spend on educating each student. This amount is therefore sensitive to increases in student numbers.
Between 1989 and 1999 the unit of funding fell by about 37 per cent in real terms, from Pounds 7,619 to Pounds 4,787.
The government already wants student numbers to rise by 45,000 in 2001-02 in order to reach its existing target of an extra 100,000 higher education places by 2002. But since that target was set, prime minister Tony Blair has announced that he wants half of all people under 30 to have benefited from higher education by 2010. There are no annual recruitment targets relating to this.
However, participation rates by people from professional and skilled backgrounds are close to saturation. Any expansion must draw on those from manual and unskilled backgrounds. Universities say that these additional students cost more to recruit and retrain than their middle-class counterparts.