Higher education employers offered all staff a 0.3 per cent increase at the second pay negotiation meeting on April.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association said the offer was “realistic, responsible and credible” in the prevailing economic circumstances.
A spokesman for Ucea said: “This offer is in addition to the incremental payments equal to 3 per cent that the majority of higher education staff will receive.
“This decision was made following extensive consultation with higher education institutions, all of which are operating in an exceptionally difficult economic climate.”
The University and College Union, which is demanding a pay rise of at least 8 per cent, last week said that it would ballot for industrial action as a credible pay offer had not been made by its deadline of 20 April.
It also accused Ucea of refusing to commit to “a new national agreement on the avoidance of redundancies”.
Ucea has argued that decisions relating to vacancy freezes or possible redundancies are a matter for individual institutions, and that the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) considers pay, not jobs.
But the union said that Ucea had agreed guidance on jobs and employment in the past, including redundancy in certain circumstances.
Universities UK supported Ucea’s pay offer.
Diana Warwick, chief executive of UUK, said: “This is a realistic and responsible pay offer from Ucea, given the economic climate and bearing in mind the generous pay increases of the last three years.
“The UCU’s pay claim of 8 per cent, made outside the agreed negotiating procedure, is neither realistic nor credible.”
She added that the £400 million in cuts identified in last week’s Budget, to be delivered via efficiency savings in the further and higher education sectors, would be “very challenging”.
“Concern over job security in these difficult circumstances is entirely understandable, and UUK shares that concern,” she said.
She added that “universities do not want to lose talented individuals” since they had a vital role to play in lifting the UK out of recession, “but this is equally why we must ensure our universities are sustainable”.
“Redundancy is an issue for employers locally, it can’t be negotiated at national level,” she said.