Sixty-two per cent of academics, and other university staff affiliated to the union, who were balloted backed a national walkout over a 1 per cent final pay offer, the union announced on 10 October. Turnout was 35 per cent.
Some 77 per cent voted for action short of a strike, which could include academics working only their set hours, the UCU said.
Union leaders are demanding an improved offer from universities, claiming four years of below-inflation pay rises have cut salaries by 13 per cent in real terms.
With university surpluses totalling more than £1 billion across the sector and vice-chancellors’ salaries continuing to increase, money is available for an improved pay deal, they say.
“The ball is now firmly in the employers’ court and we urge them to agree to meet us for urgent talks to resolve the dispute,” said Michael MacNeil, UCU head of higher education.
“Strike action is always a last resort, but we will be working closely with our sister trade unions to coordinate any plans.”
Details of industrial action have not yet been decided and the union’s higher education committee will meet on 11 October to discuss future plans.
A one-day walkout is likely to be followed by further disruptions unless employers and unions can reach an agreement.
“Without meaningful negotiations, aimed at addressing our members’ concerns, disruption in universities would seem inevitable,” added Mr MacNeil.
A Universities and Colleges Employers Association spokesman said its 1 per cent offer, which included joint work on the gender pay gap, casual contracts and flexible working arrangements, “remains on the table”.
“Ucea’s member higher education institutions tell us that the vast majority of their staff fully understand the reality of the challenging and uncertain environment for their institution and many are anxious to see the implementation of the award, rather than a prolonged dispute,” he added.
Higher education institutions will be interested to note UCU’s turnout figure, it added.
Unison, which represents academic-related staff, such as librarians, technicians and administrative staff, announced on 9 October that 54.4 per cent of its members in higher education backed strike action in a ballot over the summer.
The ballot result from the Unite trade union is expected on 14 October.