A joint statement by the University and College Union and Universities UK said the assessment boycott that has been under way at institutions for a fortnight would be put on hold from 20 November until after the next meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee, which is scheduled for 15 January.
The agreement was reached after employers agreed not to dock the pay of lecturers who had been taking part in the industrial action over the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Academics will be expected, in return, to catch up on marking within a reasonable period of time.
“UCU and UUK have agreed to a series of negotiating meetings between now and the scheduled January JNC. It is hoped that this period can now be used to close the differences between the negotiating positions, with a view to reaching agreement on reforms to the USS scheme,” the statement said.
“Both parties are committed to seeking a joint proposal for reform that offers an affordable, sustainable and attractive pension scheme, for both current and future members.”
The boycott was triggered by the proposal to move higher education staff who pay into the USS’s final salary scheme on to the career revalued benefits scheme introduced for new entrants in 2011. This triggered warnings from the union that staff pensions could be reduced by as much as a third.
At least 10 universities had announced plans to dock 100 per cent of the salary of academics taking part in the boycott, with others choosing to dock around 25 per cent.
A thaw in relations came after the UCU submitted counterproposals that accepted the end of the final salary scheme, but called for more generous terms.
But some academics have accused union leaders of “betrayal”, calling for the final salary scheme to be protected and for a conference of branch delegates to be convened to decide on the way forward in the dispute.
The joint statement from the UCU and UUK added: “Both parties are pleased that the agreement to suspend industrial action at this early stage will mean that students will not have been adversely affected and members of staff will not have had pay deducted.”