The Universities and Colleges Employers Association upped its 2012-13 offer from the previous 0.5 per cent at a meeting with the unions on 20 April.
But the offer was turned down by the sector’s five unions: the Educational Institute of Scotland, the GMB, Unison, Unite, and the University and College Union.
The unions had entered a joint 7 per cent claim. They argue the rise is needed to ensure pay keeps pace with inflation and to make up for three previous years of below-inflation settlements across the sector: at 0.5 per cent, 0.4 per cent and 0.5 per cent.
But Ucea says the claim would cost the sector £1 billion and was “not achievable in light of sustainability for higher education institutions”.
Michael MacNeil, the UCU’s head of higher education, said: “The latest offer represents another real-terms pay cut at a time when many universities have increased their financial surpluses. We expect a decent pay settlement that ensures staff are properly rewarded for their skill and commitment.”
Mike Robinson, Unite national education officer, called the 0.8 per cent offer “an insult”.
He added: “With our members already struggling with the rising cost of living and household bills soaring, this derisory offer represents a real-terms pay cut.”
The unions' claim also seeks a commitment from universities to pay the Living Wage (currently £7.20 per hour outside London) as a minimum for all staff.
Paul Curran, Ucea chair and vice-chancellor of City University London, said it was “another constructive meeting as both sides explored elements of the claim in more detail within the context of uncertainty within the sector…Recent research shows that HE pay and benefits packages continue to compare favourably to those outside of the sector.”