The University and College Union confirmed today that it will ballot its members in the sector between 25 September and 10 October.
Unison and Unite are also balloting staff in higher education over taking industrial action.
“Yes” votes for strike action would see stoppages take place in the autumn term.
Last year, the UCU also balloted members on taking industrial action over pay, but a majority voted against taking strike action.
The UCU says in a statement that since 2009, higher education staff have “suffered four consecutive years of pay cuts and seen their pay drop by 13% in real terms”.
It adds: “The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when the cumulative operating surplus in the sector was over £1 billion, while many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves, and overall student numbers have held up in the face of higher tuition fees.”
Michael MacNeil, the UCU’s head of higher education, said: “What is very clear is that the employers can afford to pay their staff more than the miserly 1 per cent on the table but they are making a calculated choice not to.
He added: “At a time when staff have been under great pressure to improve the student experience and workloads have increased, they have had their pay held down.”
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association called the 1 per cent offer “sustainable”. He added: “The current UK-wide circumstances remain unchanged, with HEIs continuing to operate in challenging and uncertain environments. Institutions are also now in a regime of funding their own infrastructure investment, so suggestions that any surpluses be devoted to pay are misguided.”
Meanwhile, strike action at the University of Liverpool over changes to contracts for professional staff appears to have been averted, after the university and the UCU reached an agreement on terms and conditions on the new deals.
In a joint statement, the two parties said they were “working together to agree a timetable for implementation of the contract”.
UCU members had voted for strike action after administrative staff were told by the university they must accept new contracts or face three months’ notice of dismissal, following which they would be rehired on the new terms.
In July, 600 professors from around the country signed a letter condemning the “disreputable” plans.
Talks took place using the conciliation service, Acas.
Martyn Moss, UCU regional official, said the outcome was “acceptable to all”. He added: “Our members at the University of Liverpool are more than satisfied with the results of the negotiations which will mean their revised contracts ensure they are compensated when they put in extra hours during evenings, weekends and bank holidays.”
A Liverpool spokesman said: “Discussions have been constructive, enabling us to implement equal terms and conditions for this group of staff.”