Members of the University and College Union were among an estimated 10,000 striking workers who marched through central London in protest at public sector pension cuts.
UCU members in post-1992 universities – who are covered by the public Teachers' Pension Scheme – mounted a one-day strike on 30 June alongside members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers, and the Public and Commercial Services Union.
Up to 200,000 higher education staff in former polytechnics are members of public sector pension schemes.
The government wants to raise pension ages, increase member contributions (by around 50 per cent in the TPS) and reduce benefits in the schemes as part of its austerity drive.
The London march, one of a series of events mounted by the unions across England and Wales, started at Lincoln's Inn Fields and ended with a rally at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.
Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, rejected suggestions that striking lecturers were letting their students down.
"We would be letting our students down if we let government get away with teaching on the cheap," she said.
"And we would be letting our students down too, if we allowed what previous generations won over decades to disappear in a summer."
Alex Kenny, an NUT executive member, said the unions had been told by police that there were "at least" 10,000 people on the march.
Mary Bousted, the ATL general secretary and a former head of the School of Education at Kingston University, attacked Prime Minister David Cameron for suggesting that the pensions system was in danger of "going broke".
She said figures showed that the cost of public sector pensions would decline in future years. "Why did he [the prime minister] mislead the public so badly?" she asked.
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association said any industrial action affecting students was "a serious concern" and noted that talks between the government and unions "have not concluded at this time and we would hope all unions would await the outcome of these negotiations".
He added that employers and employees "value the schemes highly as they are regarded as an attractive part of the remuneration package", but the recent Hutton report had called for reform "for both fairness and sustainability".