Industrial action is not the way forward, say university leaders

University leaders have written an open letter to all staff at the institutions where the University and Colleges Union (UCU) is planning industrial action. 
In the letter, the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK) – the respective lead bodies on pay and USS – say that they continue to talk to the union about finding a way forward which avoids industrial action.

UCEA and UUK explain why they do not agree with UCU’s claims that they have been “forced” to take industrial action and outline the various steps employers have taken to protect the value of pay and pensions for staff. 

Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said: “The universities represented in both these sets of negotiations have shown that they place a high value on their employees and have increased their investment in both pay and pensions to continue to offer fair pay and excellent pensions benefits as part of a national, sector-wide framework.

“We continue to talk to the union in the hope of finding a way of averting industrial action. We respectfully ask UCU, and its members, to reconsider whether the proposed action is the best approach to expressing and addressing their concerns.”

Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK, said: “In recent months, employers have taken significant steps to protect the value of both pensions and pay because we care about our dedicated and talented staff. 

“Universities will do all they can to minimise the impact of any strike action on students, their other staff and the wider community and they know that their colleagues contemplating strike action will want this too.  We sincerely hope UCU will see the merit in seeking negotiated solutions.”


  1. The open letter is available on UCEA’s website at
  2. UCU has announced 8 days of strike action at 60 universities from Monday 25 November – 4 December. 
  3. The two disputes (pay and USS pensions) are legally separate and held by UCU on a disaggregate basis with each employer, however this is a joint letter from UCEA and UUK – the respective lead bodies on pay and USS for the employers – to staff in affected institutions.
  4. Universities UK is the collective voice of 136 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit:
  5. UCEA is responsible for providing advice and support to its 171 member HE institutions in all employment matters, including matters such as industrial action. UCEA represented 147 of its members in the New JNCHES national pay negotiations for 2019-20 – see  

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