The "vote no" campaign against the pay deal brokered between union leaders and employers gained in strength this week as ballot papers were issued to University and College Union members across the country.
Local UCU branches at Glamorgan, Hertfordshire, Stirling, Sunderland and Brighton universities, as well as Queen's University, Belfast, and the University of the West of England, added their voices to 18 others calling on their members to reject the offer.
The growing weight of support for a "no" vote threatened to overshadow relief among UCU leaders that a dispute over pay docking at the University of Central Lancashire had been resolved.
UCLan's decision to reimburse wages docked during the examinations boycott rescued the union from a dilemma that followed a call from UCLan's UCU branch leaders for the national ballot to be postponed until their university agreed to return lost pay.
Only two local disputes over docked wages still continue, at Brunel University and Canterbury Christ Church University.
A UCU spokesman said these would not affect the ballot timetable and papers would be returned by July 17 with results announced the next day. "Talks are continuing and we hope to resolve the matter as soon as possible," he said.
The ballot papers, circulated on Monday, tell members: "You are being asked to vote on the revised pay offer made to UCU by the employers' body Ucea.
The Transitional Arrangements Committee endorses the negotiators' view that this is the best national offer that can be achieved by negotiation, and therefore puts it before you for decision."
The group UCULeft expects a big turnout at its "no" campaign conference and rally to be held on Saturday at London Metropolitan University, where a post-ballot strategy for resuming the dispute in autumn will be discussed.
Local UCU leaders contacted by The Times Higher suggested that resentment over the deal for a 13.1 per cent rise over three years is still strong, even in institutions where the branch has not advised members to reject the offer.
Andy Scally, UCU president at Bradford University, said: "Personally, I think the deal is pretty lousy. But I think the only useful 'no' vote would be a clear and significant one. Anything else will leave us in no man's land."
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: "Many members have invested a great deal in this action, and it is quite rightly their decision as to what the union does next."
UCU branches that have advised members to vote "no"
Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Greenwich, Hertfordshire, Hull, Keele, Leeds, Lincoln, Liverpool John Moores, London Metropolitan, Manchester Metropolitan, Newport, Nottingham Trent, Queen's Belfast, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, Southampton Solent, Stirling, Sunderland, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, West of England