Lecturers are to be asked to move towards national strike action over jobs and pensions, amid mounting anger about cuts that could result in "the implosion of the entire sector".
The University and College Union will hold a special sector conference in Manchester on 25 November, where delegates will decide whether to support a motion "to ballot on industrial action including discontinuous strike action and action short of a strike".
A separate motion from the University of Liverpool's UCU branch calls for the conference to agree to "immediately explore organising assessment boycotts in ways that maximise disruption", and to recommend that strikes are held for one week a month. Where possible, strike action should be "coordinated with the actions of other unions for maximum disruption of university business", the motion states.
The UCU Left group began the push for a special sector conference in September, after its attempt to trigger a strike ballot was narrowly thwarted by opponents on the governing Higher Education Committee (HEC) - including general secretary Sally Hunt.
The motions, which raise the prospect of the first national strike action in higher education since 2006, follow the breakdown of talks between the UCU and employers on job security and pension reform.
The HEC motion to ballot for a strike notes that consultation with members found "jobs and pensions were the priority issues" and it calls for two "separate but parallel ballots on the employers' offer and USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pensions".
The ballots would be held after the meeting of the USS board on 20 January, when the USS trustees may rubber-stamp the changes proposed by the employers.
A second motion from the HEC discusses the Browne Review and the Comprehensive Spending Review.
"This level of cuts threatens jobs across all parts of the sector, setting institution against institution and colleague against colleague, leading to the implosion of the entire sector. Only unity across the sector can prevent this nightmare scenario," the motion says.