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UCEA makes meaningful moves in penultimate meeting of the 2018-19 HE pay negotiation

UCEA and the HE trade unions (1) met today (13 April) as New JNCHES (2) for the second of the three agreed meetings of the HE negotiating round for the 2018-19 base pay uplift (3). The employers ended this constructive meeting with a position that already matches last year’s pay outcome agreement, with a baseline 1.7% pay increase and a higher pay uplift for the lower paid. Coupled with the progression and contribution pay that around half the employees covered are eligible to receive, the current position in the negotiations means the average pay increase received by the sector employees covered would be over 3%.

UCEA, representing 147 participating employers, emphasised the employers’ desire to negotiate a pay settlement that balances the high value they place on their staff, while not threatening the sustainability of institutions and recognises the responsibility they have towards their students. Employers are committed to maintaining sector pay competitiveness against cost of living but UCEA reiterated the severity of challenges including decreasing student applications, fee freeze and funding review in England, and real terms funding decreases in devolved nations. The sector faces other uncertainties including the outcomes of Brexit (4)

Employers were pleased that the trade unions signalled a willingness to negotiate as the trade unions’ initial headline claim would require HE institutions to add £1.7bn to the pay bill (5), which would create severe financial difficulties across the sector. HE institutions also feel that the merits of the benefits and working conditions they provide to staff are often overlooked, knowing that they do provide an excellent reward package, including for those on the lower spine points, often being the employer of choice in their locality. 

The parties discussed all the non-pay elements in the trade unions’ claim (6) in full; these included issues around the gender pay gap and casual employment contracts. Positive explorations relating to further joint work in these areas took place and will be discussed further at the next meeting. 

Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said:

“We are committed to arriving at the best possible outcome we can in what are unprecedented times. We discussed and responded to all elements of the trade unions’ claim, constructively exploring these within a context of increasing costs, uncertainty and significant financial constraint in the sector. We ask that the trade unions carefully consider these positive moves towards a settlement. We look to concluding the negotiations on 10 May.”



1 EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite

2 The Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff is the forum in which the employers, represented by UCEA, and the trade unions negotiate on the base uplift to the National Pay Spine. The National Pay Spine is used by most HEIs to underpin the pay and grading arrangements for staff up to Professor level (and equivalent), covering around 85% of the HE workforce.

3 The New JNCHES negotiating timetable is a process that usually runs across meetings in March, April and May. This forum allows for three negotiating meetings (26 March, 13 April and 10 May) and more if required.  

4 The Employers’ Statement and list of participating employers can be found on the ‘Current pay negotiations’ website page

5 According to HESA data, total staff expenditure in 2016-17 was £18.9bn 

6 The trade unions’ claim includes an increase to all spine points on the 50 point national pay scale of 7.5% or £1,500 or 10 per hour whichever is greater, as well as several pay-related elements plus some non-pay issues. The full trade union claim can be found on the ‘Current pay negotiations’ webpage 


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

UCEA’s ‘Current pay negotiations’ website page includes details of the trade unions’ joint claim.