Lecturers' union Natfhe is setting up a national strike fund levy, reflecting a growing mood of militancy among members faced with job cuts. It is also considering a merger with another education union to strengthen its position.
Some 200 delegates at last weekend's national conference voted for a motion instructing the executive council to increase all membership subscriptions to incorporate a strike fund levy, although members will be able to opt out.
It is the first time that the union has adopted a strike-fund policy covering its members in the new universities and it recognises the increased threat of redundancies in this sector.
Jill Jones, chairwoman of the Natfhe higher education committee, said: "We are beginning to face mass redundancy in the HE sector unlike anything we have met before. Industrial action is planned and essential to fight these job losses and we seek all your support."
Delegates reaffirmed Natfhe's support for "education as a right, not a privilege" and called for the necessary increase in HE and further education funding, including student grants, to be met from general taxation.
The union will also be developing a battle plan to halt the continuing loss of jobs from the FE sector.
Meanwhile, Natfhe has become the first major education union to reject the Labour party's new policy advocating the replacement of student grants with loans.
Conference delegates voted for an emergency motion deploring the party's shift from grants to loans. The National Union of Students and the Association of University Teachers have both supported loans repayable through an income contingent graduate tax.
A separate motion at the Natfhe conference called for a "new, equitable student support regime". The union believes there should be an element of employer contribution to post-16 education costs.
*Higher education trade unions are mounting a national conference and lobby of parliament on June 25, plus events in Glasgow and Cardiff, to protest about funding cuts in universities. The collaboration between rival groups is unprecedented, according to the AUT, which said its aim was to raise awareness of the desperate need to address funding shortfalls ahead of the Dearing inquiry on higher education.