UK universities up pay rise offer as talks conclude

Staff would receive an initial £900 rise in August followed by second uplift in March under plan outlined by Ucea

July 3, 2024
Source: iStock/alice-photo

This year’s pay negotiations for UK higher education have concluded with employers making a final offer of a rise of between 2.5 and 5.7 per cent, phased over several months.

All staff covered by the process would receive an initial £900 uplift on 1 August, under the plan outlined by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea).

This would be followed by the remainder of the salary increase on 1 March 2025, with those on the lower end receiving the most. Employees earning up to £38,205 would earn 3 per cent more, for example, Ucea said.

It comes after extensive negotiations took place since March, with the three initial meetings of the process ending without a deal with the higher education trade unions being agreed.

Several further meetings have since taken place, with employers increasing their initial offer of 2.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent, before coming up with the final figures.

The wage rises would be accompanied by other measures including a review of the pay spine and joint work on contract types, workload and pay gaps, Ucea said.

Unions will now consult on the final offer, with Ucea warning that the week beginning 8 July is the last date when a settlement can realistically be reached to ensure the August rise can be implemented. The University and College Union (UCU) said its higher education committee will meet on 5 July to consider the offer.

While the talks have generally been more amicable this year, finding an agreement has been complicated by the financial situation in many institutions.

Ucea said phasing the uplift may prevent institutions having to trigger a clause in the negotiations that allows them to defer the pay award for up to 11 months. This happened in unprecedented numbers last year and was expected to be needed by many institutions again.

In what employers called “meaningful” progress on other elements of the claim, all sides have agreed to further negotiations on various longstanding sector issues.

One group will seek to “reduce the use of contracts with a fixed term, or without fixed or minimum hours” while another will look at ways of closing equality pay gaps and a third will “develop and promote good practice” on workload management.

Raj Jethwa, the Ucea chief executive, said despite the financial challenges “a realistic but fair pay offer was achieved, alongside progress in many of the other important areas identified by the trade unions”.

He said the final offer would provide “a substantial boost to the lowest points of the pay spine, while ensuring all members of staff receive a sustainable pay uplift”.

“We urge the trade unions to now consult fairly, if that remains in their procedures. I would remind the unions that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

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Reader's comments (4)

The final UCEA offer for 24/25 is disappointing. The joint union claim demanded RPI + 2% (i.e. a circa 5% increase in total) and would have expected August 2024 implementation. The 2.5% that most colleagues have been offered (and only for delayed full implementation in March 2025) is a real terms pay cut falling below RPI (currently circa 3%). The offer can be contrasted with the 5.5% increase recently agreed at Queen's University Belfast for 24/25 (and which totals 13% over the next 3 years). Notably, this was agreed after QUB was expelled from UCEA for making a local agreement on pay in 2023. Clearly, the "sector collective" pay negotiation model centered around UCEA is not working. UCEA plays to the lowest common denominator in terms of university financial strength. Most institutions could offer fair pay for their academics, as Queen's has demonstrated. Let's cut out the UCEA middle man and engage in local negotiations henceforth.
As a lecturer, I am gutted to see that we are considered as high salary while in London we can't barely sustain a normal life. It is very unfair to consider that we are not hit by inflation the same as lower pay spine point while our rent have been increased by 25% on average last 2 years. Once again, these negotiation are not focusing on the lecturer issues and make me think that leaving academia might be better if I want to have a decent salary.
Back to the picket line
Splitting the raise and further compression of the pay scale is deeply disappointing. I could live with 2.5% if it was implemented immediately.