The Government has refused to contribute towards the cost of this autumn's independent higher education pay review because it fears that its conclusions will be rejected.
The review was agreed by higher education institutions as part of the 2006-09 three-year pay deal with academics and is designed to examine the financial health of the sector in order to inform talks over pay for 2009-10.
But in a letter seen by Times Higher Education, Bill Rammell, the Universities Minister, indicates frustration that the University and College Union has not agreed reforms to the future structure of pay negotiations with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.
In a letter to Ucea, Mr Rammell says that he cannot agree to help fund the review "as things stand".
Earlier this year, UCU members voted to reject reforms that would have seen the union negotiating alongside other campus unions at a single bargaining table, to an imposed timetable, which the UCU feared would hinder its ability to take industrial action at exam time.
Mr Rammell says: "With one of the larger trade union members currently outside the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff framework we cannot have confidence that the review will unanimously be accepted as providing a factual input to future negotiation ... these are not appropriate conditions in which to make public funds available."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: "The UCU is the main representative of academic and related staff in higher education, so we understand concerns that any talks without us may lack credibility. We remain committed to national bargaining and are keen to meet with Ucea to further discussions."
Despite Ms Hunt's request for talks, Ucea indicated that further negotiations on the structures were unlikely. Ucea is pressing ahead with the non-academic campus unions under the new structures, without the UCU, prompting fears that national pay bargaining for academics could collapse.
A motion from the University of Brighton to be put to the UCU annual conference this week advocates that branches and local associations do not negotiate or settle locally and proposes that universities withdrawing from national negotiations "will be subject to the invocation of their dispute procedure".