Lecturers' unions this week rejected as "derisory" a pay offer of 6 per cent over two years, telling employers the dispute would continue until they come up with a credible deal.
The Association of University Teachers and Natfhe joined unions representing manual and support staff in rejecting the offer put forward on Tuesday by the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association.
Neither the AUT nor Natfhe was represented at the meeting, having refused to comply with the employers' condition that they suspend their assessment boycott and other industrial action before attending the negotiations.
But The Times Higher learnt that AUT and Natfhe representatives were likely to meet employers early next week to try to break the negotiations deadlock.
The meeting will be chaired by Mary Stacey, independent chair of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff and an employment tribunal chair, and the unions will be allowed to attend without suspending industrial action.
Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, said that the offer was nowhere near the unions' joint claim for up to 23 per cent over three years. She highlighted the difference between the offer to staff and the average rise of 25 per cent over three years enjoyed by vice-chancellors, as reported by The Times Higher in early March.
Ms Hunt said: "I am extremely disappointed. When employers start to look at members' aspirations in the same way that they looked at their own in awarding themselves a 25 per cent rise, then we will be in business."
Roger Kline, head of the universities department at Natfhe, said: "There is no catch-up in this offer - it is almost at the rate of inflation.
Employers have not yet got the message that our members are serious about a significant pay increase."
Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of Ucea, said that the 6 per cent offer was above inflation, which stood at 2 per cent, and was higher than the 2.5 per cent offered by the School Teachers' Review Body.
Ms Prudence added that it was important to remember that the 6 per cent was in addition to likely rises of between 3 per cent and 5 per cent a year as a result of the new pay framework.
"It is a reasonable offer, particularly in the context of what's already in the pipeline from the new pay structures," Ms Prudence said. "It is a step-by-step process. The unions now have an offer, and I would hope that the academic unions reflect further on where they go from here."
Manual and support unions Unison, the T&G, GMB and Amicus also rejected the 6 per cent, two-year offer.
The next official negotiating meeting is on April 25.