University staff are to strike for three days next month in disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will walk out between December 1-3 following votes in favour of industrial action.

The strikes will hit 58 universities across the UK before the Christmas break, including the University of Central Lancashire, which has campuses in Preston and Burnley, and The University of Lancaster. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has warned that more industrial action could take place in the spring if the row with employers remains unresolved.

Earlier this month, UCU members backed strike action in two separate disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions.

Overall, 76 per cent of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions.

In the ballot on pay and conditions, 70 per cent of members backed strike action.

As well as the three strike days, union members will begin other forms of industrial action from December 1.

This will include strictly working to contract and refusing any additional duties.

This is set to go on indefinitely for the five months staff have a mandate to take industrial action for, UCU has said.

Dr Grady said: “Strikes over three consecutive days are set to hit university campuses next month unless employers get round the table and take staff concerns over pension cuts, pay and working conditions seriously.

“UCU has repeatedly asked employers to meet with us to try to resolve these disputes.

"But while we set out pragmatic solutions that could halt widespread disruption to UK campuses, university bosses refuse to revoke unnecessary, swingeing pension cuts or even to negotiate on issues like casualisation and the unbearably high workloads that blight higher education.

“A resolution to this dispute is simple. But if employers remain intent on slashing pensions and exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then campuses will face strike action before Christmas, which will escalate into spring with reballots and further industrial action.”

The UCU claims that cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions scheme would reduce the guaranteed retirement income of a typical member by 35 per cent.

It has also suggested that pay for university staff fell by 17.6 per cent relative to inflation between 2009 and 2019, and since then employers have made below-inflation offers, with the latest worth 1.5 per cent.

The UCU held a series of walkouts in 2019 and early 2020 over pensions, pay and conditions, which affected universities across the UK.

There was also strike action in 2018 amid a row over pensions.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “With vice chancellors’ average total pay packets rising to £269,000 per year, it’s clear employers can afford to resolve their dispute with UCU over staff pay, which has fallen by an average of 20 per cent in real terms since 2009.

“Staff teaching conditions are student learning conditions, and we mustn’t forget many postgraduate students on casualised teaching contracts will be striking.

“The onus for minimising disruption for students lies with university bosses: they must come back to the table to address the clear issues in how higher education is currently run.”

A Universities UK spokesperson, which represents employers in the pensions dispute, said: “We regret that the UCU is proceeding with plans for industrial action despite the fact that fewer than 10 per cent of eligible pension scheme members voted yes to strike action. Strike action will not address the urgent need for reform to keep the scheme affordable.

“Universities will put in place measures to minimise the impact on students, other staff and the wider university community and will ensure that students can continue to learn and receive support.

“We have repeatedly stated willingness to consult employers on any viable, affordable and implementable alternative proposal from the UCU and we remain fully committed to continuing talks to develop a joint approach to the future of the pension scheme.”

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of the UCEA, which represents employers in the pay dispute, called the union’s “long-awaited” decision to stage strike action in the autumn term “disappointing”.

He said: “UCU members need to understand that any industrial action aimed at harming students is an unrealistic attempt to try to force all 146 employers to re-open the concluded 2021-22 national pay round and improve on an outcome that is for most of these institutions already at the very limit of what is affordable.

“It has been 10 days since the ballot results and not one of the HEIs has indicated to UCEA any form of reconsideration.

“We note UCU’s campaign focuses on casual contracts and workload. We have made repeated offers of joint work in these areas for two years but UCU has rejected them. UCEA genuinely wishes to engage on these matters as far as we can at a national level, noting that they are ultimately for local negotiations.”

Members of the University and College Union are staging a series of walkouts at the start of next month in disputes over pensions and pay.

Fifty-eight UK universities and colleges will be affected as staff go on strike over one or both of the disputes.

There are 33 institutions where UCU members are taking action over both pay and pensions. These are:

Aston University


Durham University


Heriot-Watt University

Keele University

King’s College London

London School of Economics

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Loughborough University

Open University

Royal Holloway


The University of Birmingham

The University of Dundee

The University of Kent

The University of Leeds

The University of Nottingham

The University of Sheffield

The University of Stirling

The University of Bradford

The University of Bristol

The University of Cambridge

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Essex

The University of Glasgow

The University of Lancaster

The University of Liverpool

The University of St Andrews

The University of Sussex

The University of York

Queen’s University Belfast

The University of Ulster

Twenty-one will be affected by workers taking action over pay. These are:

Courtauld Institute of Art

Edinburgh Napier University

Glasgow School of Art

Greenwich University

Kingston University

Liverpool Hope University

Manchester Metropolitan University

Queen Margaret University

Roehampton University

Royal College of Art

Royal Northern College of Music

Sheffield Hallam University

The University of Manchester

The University of Northampton

The University of Salford

The University of the Arts London

University College London

The University of Brighton

The University of Central Lancashire

The University of Chester

The University of Leicester

Four will be affected due to the pensions strike only. These are:

Institute of Development Studies

Imperial College London

The University of Bath

The University of Reading