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HE employers make final offer on base pay for all of between 2.8% and 2%, with the greater uplifts to the lower paid

UCEA, representing 147 participating HE employers, yesterday made a final pay offer guaranteeing increases of at least 2%. The offer includes 2.8% on the lowest point and consequent extra loading for the first 14 pay points where it is acknowledged that cost of living pressures are felt most keenly. This offer would bring the average sector pay increase for 2018-19 to 3.5%, with half the staff covered by the negotiations also eligible for additional progression pay increases (1). This more than matches the current level of inflation and compares well with pay increases in other sectors (2), demonstrating the investment the sector continues to make in its highly-valued staff. 

With proposals for new and important joint sector-level work on the gender pay gap and casual employment, the offer also seeks to address positively a range of pay-related issues raised by the trade unions in their claim (3). The offer re-emphasises the employers’ commitment to an outcome that balances the high value they place on their staff with the sustainability of their institutions and recognises the responsibility they have towards their students. The responses on important pay-related matters raised by the trade unions build on several years of positive sector-level work on gender pay gap and casual employment. New joint work which focuses on the action planning that HE institutions are undertaking to seek to tackle the gender pay gap has also just begun (4). 

Discussions recognised that there was complexity given the range of financial health across the sector institutions in this collective negotiation. UCEA emphasised the severity of ongoing financial, policy and funding challenges for the participating employers, including Brexit and related uncertainties (5). HE institutions remain proud of their excellent reward packages for staff, including those on the lower spine points, often being the employer of choice in their locality.

Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said: “This, the last of our three meetings, was once again a constructive and considered negotiation. It has resulted in the offer of a further and final uplift from the employers, with an outcome where no one will get less than a 2% base uplift and many will receive considerably larger increases, either through pay progression or through the greater increases to the lower pay points. This is an offer that some of our HE institutions will find financially challenging. However, we have sought to provide a balanced and fair offer to reach the best achievable outcome that maintains sector pay competitiveness despite ongoing uncertainties. The offers of further sector-level work in the areas of the gender pay gap and casual employment will, we hope, be positively welcomed. These topics, together with the trade unions’ concerns regarding workloads, are of course matters that HE employers address at institutional level.

“The current context constitutes what is an extremely testing time for all in our sector and we hope that this considered final offer will be received positively by the trade unions and their members’ feedback sought.” 



(1) Approximately half of the staff covered by these negotiations will be eligible for progression pay increases of around 3% bringing their total pay uplift to 5%; across the HE workforce this adds an average addition of a 1.5% increase to the 2 to 2.8% base pay increase that all will receive. The full text of the final composite offer will in the next few days.

(2) The NHS Staff Council (England) reached agreement on a refresh of NHS Terms and Conditions of Service (Agenda for Change) and a three year pay deal in March 2018. The deal increases starting salaries, the top of pay bands and reduces the number of pay points used. The top of pay bands will increase by 6.5% over three years (averaging 2.1% per year). The pay award covering the majority of local government employees in England increases the single pay spine by 2% in April 2018 and April 2019 with higher increases for the lowest paid. 

(3) The full trade union claim can be found at

(4) Links to the recent New JNCHES reports published in July 2015, 2016 and 2017:

New JNCHES - Gender Pay Working Group Report

New JNCHES - Hourly Paid and Casual Staff Working Group Report 

New JNCHES - Higher Education gender pay gap data

New JNCHES - Equal Pay Reviews and Gender Pay Gap Reporting - Guidance for HEIs

New JNCHES Gender Pay Gap Working Group 2018 Terms of Reference 

(5) The Employers’ Statement setting out the context and challenges for employers, plus the list of participating employers can be found at  

For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager ( Call 020 7383 2444.

Notes to Editors

The New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) is the forum in which the participating employers, represented by UCEA, and the trade unions negotiate on the base uplift to the National Pay Spine, effective from 1 August. The five trade unions are EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite. 

The National Pay Spine is a set of pay points used by many HEIs to underpin their individual pay and grading arrangements for staff up to Professor level (and equivalent), covering around 90% of the HE workforce.

The New JNCHES negotiating timetable is a process that for the 2018-19 round ran across meetings held in March, April and May. The timetable allows for three negotiating meetings.