You are:

  • News

HE employers make final pay offer of between 2.4% and 1.7%, giving extra increases to the lower paid

UCEA, representing 148 participating employers, provided a final offer at between 2.4% and 1.7% that brings the average pay increase for the staff group covered to 3.2%, plus extra for those on pay points up to point 16, together with proposals for new and significant joint work on gender pay (note 1). This confirms the employers’ commitment to achieving a negotiated pay outcome that seeks to balance the high value they place on their staff with the sustainability of their institutions and recognises the responsibility they have towards their students.

The meeting yesterday (27 April) was the third and final time that UCEA and the HE trade unions met as New JNCHES in the HE negotiating round for the 2017-18 base pay uplift. UCEA provided extensive details of all aspects of their competitive final offer, which includes a minimum of a 1.7% base pay uplift for all, with 2.4% on the lowest point and consequent extra loading for the first 16 points; the extra for the lowest point enables the hourly-rate for this point to cut to the current voluntary Living Wage and sit well above the National Living Wage. (2)

The employers’ offer confirms their commitment to maintaining sector pay competitiveness against a currently rising set of inflation measures that make it impossible for the base pay increase alone to match them - as is being seen across the economy. UCEA emphasised the severity of ongoing financial challenges for the participating employers (3), including significant cost increases, the challenging funding context and huge Brexit and related uncertainties. UCEA is also aware that some HE institutions already have significant redundancy programmes running and that the trade unions’ initial headline claim (4) would have required HE institutions to add £1.3bn to the pay bill (5), creating severe financial difficulties across the sector. HE institutions are also proud of their excellent reward package for staff, including those on the lower spine points, often being the employer of choice in their locality (6).

UCEA and the trade unions are currently working together on two pieces of joint work on the gender pay gap and casual employment as a result of last year’s pay settlement, both taking forward issues from the substantial joint reports (7) published in 2015. This year’s offer includes positive exploration and extension of further joint work on gender pay action planning with a view to also examining the interrelationship with other protected characteristics. 

Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said: “We have seen constructive and considered negotiations over our three meetings and I now hope that the trade unions will feel they have a significant and fair outcome. We have explained that this offer is at, and for some of our HE institutions beyond, a level of affordability without any other compensating actions, but we also know that employers want to maintain sector pay competitiveness in this difficult inflationary environment. With this outcome no one would get less than a 1.7% uplift and very many would see increases of more than this, either through pay progression or through the greater increases to the lower pay points. The offer of joint work in the area of the gender pay gap and other protected characteristics also seeks to involve the trade unions as sector-level partners on this important topic. We hope that this final and best offer will be considered positively by the trade unions and their members.”



(1) Approximately half of the staff covered by these negotiations will be eligible for progression pay increases of around 3%; this adds an average addition of a 1.5% increase to the base pay increase that all will receive.

(2) The five trade unions are EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite and the New 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, effective from 1 August. 

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 90% of the HE workforce.

The three scheduled meetings for the 2017-18 New JNCHES round are: Thursday 30 March, Tuesday 4 April and Thursday 27 April. At the second meeting on 4 April the employers made an improved offer of 1.5% plus extra for the lower paid.  

(3) The Employers’ Statement and list of participating employers can be found here

(4) The full trade union claim can be found here.

It had sought a headline increase to all spine points on the 51 (50) point national pay scale of RPI plus £1,200 or RPI plus 3% whichever is greater. This equated to a 7% uplift, using RPI of 3.2% together with the additional 3% or £1,200 element (estimated to add a further increase to the overall pay bill for staff covered by these negotiations of 3.7%). It also sought a further increase to the lowest point (2) on the pay spine that would equate to an uplift of up to 28%.

(5) According to HESA data, total staff expenditure in 2015-16 was £18 billion. 

(6) The lowest point of the national spine (point 2), where used, currently provides an hourly rate of £8.25 for HEIs that use a 35 hour week, 10% above the latest National Living Wage. Many HEIs actually start their lowest grade at a higher point than this.

(7) Links to the two New JNCHES reports published in July 2015:

Joint report on gender pay identifies good practice in HE 

Ground-breaking joint report on hourly paid and casual staff


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 JNCHES negotiating timetable is a process that in 2017-18 ran across meetings in March and April. This forum allows for three negotiating meetings, and more if required