Employers declined to make a pay offer at the campus trade unions' first joint remuneration meeting.
In a joint statement with other unions, the University and College Union said it was "amazed" that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association chose not to name a figure at the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff meeting on 30 March.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said Ucea had "used the woes of the economy to go against the spirit of the negotiating process". She said the UCU expected an offer at the next meeting on April. "We will ... reserve the right to ballot our members should the offer not meet our expectations," she added.
The UCU has put in a claim for a pay rise of at least 8 per cent in 2009-10.
Ucea said it had explored and discussed 13 separate elements of the unions' claims at the meeting, and added that it would have more up-to-date information at the next meeting, "including the Government's Budget announcement and a better idea of funding figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland".