Leeds University has become the first UK institution to create a new pay band for professors and senior management, in what has been described as the most comprehensive pay agreement to date.
Unions and employers are hoping that the Leeds agreement will provide a model for others to follow. It is unique in that it sets pay points for professors who, up to now, have had only a professorial minimum salary.
A joint statement from the Association of University Teachers and the university, says: "It has taken nearly a year of discussions to reach this point. We believe others will look at our proposals as a model of fairness and best practice."
The agreement hammered out at Leeds will introduce a 60-point pay spine, covering salaries up to £60,404, including those of professors and senior professional and managerial staff.
Richy Carrothers, of the AUT regional office, said: "The Leeds deal is significant because it is so comprehensive. In the past, there have been anomalies at the top of institutions, which have tended to work to the disadvantage of women. Now there will be comparability throughout."
The statement says: "The new system resolves a number of long-standing anomalies and barriers to fair pay and reward, and helps the university address recruitment and retention difficulties."
The union also stressed that staff moving to the new pay spine would suffer "no detriment" as a result. This was a key element of the memorandum of understanding that the AUT held out for last year. Mr Carrothers said: "It is important that the principle of no detriment is established throughout the sector."
The new structure will be introduced at Leeds on August 1, subject to the outcome of a ballot to be conducted over the next fortnight.
The AUT is encouraging members to vote in favour of the proposals. All jobs at the university will be placed into the appropriate band on the new pay spine after role analysis.
The joint statement says that the system will deliver salary improvement without job losses.
Progress in implementing the pay framework hammered out over years of negotiations between employers and trade unions last summer, has been slow.
A handful of universities, notably Southampton, Leeds, Manchester and the Open University, have signed up to the framework. At the OU, starting salaries increased by 15 per cent.
At Manchester, senior lecturer salaries increased to £50,000.
Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said: "We are delighted that agreement has been reached at Leeds."