Rising numbers of vice-chancellors want to pull out of national bargaining in a bid to "drive down pay and conditions", the University and College Union's conference in Manchester heard this week.
The London South Bank University branch proposed a motion criticising the institution for breaking from national bargaining and failing to award the 0.5 per cent pay rise agreed for 2009-10.
The motion included proposals to "greylist" the university if it fails to reverse both actions - asking academics to refuse to engage with it - and to support the branch's "resistance to the breach with national bargaining, including preparation for industrial action".
The conference also heard that Staffordshire University had started a 90-day consultation on plans to pull out of national bargaining.
Staffordshire UCU proposed an amendment to the motion noting the university's "proposed 'modern interpretation' of the national contract" and pressing it not to withdraw.
Jane Hardy, of the University of Hertfordshire and a member of the union's national executive committee, told the conference: "What's happening at Staffordshire and (London) South Bank is just another way the attack on higher education is being carried out." She said senior managers were "trying to drive down pay and conditions by pulling out of national bargaining".
Nearly all higher education institutions negotiate a national deal on pay and conditions through the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.
Adrian Budd, London South Bank UCU chair, said others were studying his institution's attempts at local bargaining.
"Vice-chancellors are watching the situation very carefully. If (London) South Bank is successful, (vice-chancellors) will want to go down that same route if it will save them money," he said.
Hertfordshire UCU proposed an amendment to the motion to "prevent UCU branches from doing local deals that undermine national bargaining or conditions of service".
The London South Bank motion was passed unanimously along with the amendments.