Higher education's first national industrial action since 2006 is "very likely", the UK's largest lecturers' union has said, as rows over job cuts continue around the country.
The University and College Union is unhappy with the employers' refusal to discuss a national deal on job security and also with the 0.4 per cent pay offer for next year. A final meeting between unions and employers was scheduled for 28 July.
But the UCU says in the latest issue of its HE News that the "signals as regards the employers' willingness to talk about our key issues are not good. It seems very likely, therefore, that to make progress members must be prepared to take industrial action."
Meetings will be held in September to prepare for a ballot, it says.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association said that "any threats of industrial action are premature" when talks are yet to conclude.
Meanwhile, Leeds Metropolitan University academics have petitioned the vice-chancellor, Susan Price, over plans to reduce the number of staff in the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change from six to two.
The centre transferred from Sheffield Hallam University in 2007.
Critics say the cuts are part of wider moves by Professor Price to trim back research.
A university spokeswoman said the centre was "not achieving its original plan", and that Leeds Met hoped that the cuts could be made through voluntary redundancies.
At the University of Reading, consultation is under way over plans for up to job losses, with the bulk in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Systems Engineering. This is part of a bid to save £10.6 million by 2012.
Minutes from a meeting of the university's standing redundancy committee show that the UCU branch told management they could do more to avoid compulsory redundancies by "going further" to promote a voluntary severance scheme.
John Brady, director of human resources at Reading, said: "It remains our intention to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy wherever possible."