Higher education unions in new universities and colleges this week predicted industrial action as a result of the employers' "derisory" pay offer.
Natfhe, the university and college lecturers' union, and the Association of University and College Lecturers both rejected a 2.5 per cent pay offer made last Friday by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.
The unions had put in a joint claim for a rise above inflation, which was running at 3.3 per cent in April, together with a higher starting salary of Pounds 15,000, more open pay structures and career opportunities and development.
Last month the Association of University Teachers accepted a pay rise of 2.7 per cent, after submitting a claim for five per cent.
Teachers in schools have accepted a similar rise and so have some other public sector employees. It is thought likely that the UCEA will offer the same to Natfhe and the AUCL when they meet again next week.
Liz Allen, Natfhe's chief higher education negotiator said that the offer had been too low and that employers did not seem prepared to listen to the concerns of lecturers which their claim reflected.
"These are very genuine, tangible issues regarding low pay, fairness, openness and the practice of teaching and we are very concerned about the failure of employers to address these," she said.
The AUCL said the offer was an apparent attempt to induce industrial action and ignored the vast increase in student numbers in the new universities. Christine Cheeseman, the association's chief executive, said it was possible to take action without breaking one's contract.
Stephen Rouse, chief executive of the UCEA, said that he was surprised at this readiness to fight when negotiations were still actively going on. He stressed the offer had been made prior to receiving the majority of responses from institutions because the claim was delivered only shortly before the first meeting with the unions.