University employers have narrowly averted a summer of industrial action by offering pay rises of up to 5.1 per cent for lecturers and 6.7 per cent for manual workers.
The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association made its final offer to the seven higher education unions after an eight-hour meeting last week. It was "reluctantly accepted" this week by the executive of lecturers' union Natfhe, which had threatened to resume its campaign.
Other unions welcomed the deal, which depends on unions agreeing to new pay-bargaining machinery. Members will be balloted before a meeting on June 25.
The deal, staggered according to the systems used by each union, offers some of the sector's best ever pay increases - above inflation, although below the 30 per cent pay gap the unions had identified.
Lecturers represented by the Association of University Teachers would get a staggered 5.1 per cent rise over 16 months.
The union executive recommended acceptance.
Natfhe members have been offered an 11-month staggered pay deal worth 4.3 per cent for 2001-02. The top lecturers' salary would rise to £26,686 and the starting salary to £19,574.
The executive is to recommend acceptance.
Support staff would get a 6.7 per cent rise over 16 months.
The Transport and General Workers' Union said it was the best deal ever.
Unison, which has 60,000 members in higher education, was happy with the pay package but said it wanted a single bargaining table for all staff.
The deal includes a new national bargaining council which will be set up with two subcommittees: an academic staff subcommittee and a professional, technical, administrative, ancillary staff subcommittee, as recommended in the Bett report, Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the UCEA, said the offer had "pushed the limit of affordability for institutions".
- A ballot for industrial action is being held at Sunderland University, which plans to restructure with the loss of 140 jobs.