Our pay claim for this year was drawn up by Unite members elected to our National Education Sector Committee, who work tirelessly to represent Unite members across Higher Education. Unite senior negotiators and the joint trade unions in Higher Education met with the University employers body UCEA over April and May.

Our joint union pay claim for this year was for a pay uplift of £2500 on all pay points and an increase in all pay related allowances including London weighting and an additional uplift at the lower end of the pay spine to address pay compression. This claim reflects that pay in higher education is falling behind public sector pay.

This would provide for a minimum of £10 per hour wage for all contract types. The Unions also called for all universities to become Living Wage Foundation accredited employers ensuring that outsourced workers receive, at least, the Living Wage Foundation rate of pay. The pay claim also called for a maximum sector wide pay ratio of 10:1 which is not limited to the national pay spine (i.e. covers all employees including staff on senior pay rates).

The pay claim asked the employers to address the increasing workloads of staff, address the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, end zero hour contracts and further look at bringing outsourced staff back in house. We also asked our employers to address the unfairness that many Universities have a 37 or 39 hour week. There should be a 35 hour week for all university staff without loss of pay.

The claim went on to set out that job security is of top concern to our members. In this time of pandemic, Government restrictions, and the availability of the Job Retention scheme, our union has worked flat out to challenge employer redundancies, and the deplorable practice of fire and rehire.

University employers should be doing everything they can to keep our members in jobs. A UK level higher education redeployment facility for those whose jobs are at risk of redundancy.

We also proposed that new JNCHES establish working group/s to look at career development, progression issues and training opportunities in higher education;

Unite members in Universities are hardworking, loyal staff who care passionately about the work that we do. Our Unite national committee would like to thank you for all the work that you have done to keep universities operating, and keeping staff and students safe and supported throughout the pandemic.

Staff working in Higher Education have suffered a pay freeze over the last year and below inflation pay rises in recent years which means our pay is not keeping pace with the cost of living; 50% of Unite members frequently work longer than their contracted hours; 72% of members experience work place stress and 50% rate staff morale as bad or terrible.

The employers continue to state that they have no mandate from their members to negotiate on the items in our heads of claim other than pay, but have set out in the final offer, some proposals to carry out joint work on the issues of pay equity, career development, redeployment and workloads.

The other elements of the claim in relation to a 35 hour week, casualization and a Scottish JNCHES sub committee have not been addressed in the final offer from the employers.

The text of the full and final offer from UCEA is set out below
Full and final offer – New JNCHES negotiating round 2021-22

Following the conclusion of the third New JNCHES meeting of the 2021-22 pay round, I am writing to set out the details of the Employers’ full and final offer. Employers are committed to a pay outcome that is fair and sustainable, within a context of increasing costs, uncertainty and significant financial constraints resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This includes substantial increases in the deficits of university-sponsored pension schemes, as well as static and in some cases falling per capita fee levels and research income. Many of the costs associated with the pandemic are expected to remain high for some time to come. Many HEIs have used reserves and nearly all have reduced capital spending to meet current funding requirements, showing the importance they place on their staff.

The offer set out below has been very carefully constructed to balance affordability for our member institutions across a wide spectrum of financial viability, with a meaningful uplift for staff in the sector.

Pay uplift

In respect of the uplift to the pay spine, UCEA’s offer is for an increase in the paybill of 1.6 percent, which is a substantial additional investment of £164 million in round terms. Our proposal for the structure of the award is set out in the appendix to this letter. The uplift would be graded in such a way as to award increases of between 1.54 percent and 3.6 percent for pay points below Spine Point 22, with an increase of 1.5 percent to all pay points at Spine Point 22 or above. Furthermore, employers would want us to note that around half of the staff covered by the negotiations are also eligible for additional progression pay increases ranging from 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

We have listened carefully to the arguments made by the union side. We hope that you will recognise that as a result there was a significant improvement upon our opening offer and that we moved twice over the course of this negotiating round. The structure of the uplift would enable HEIs to meet the Voluntary Living Wage rate of £9.50 an hour at a 35-hour week. It would also ensure an uplift on all Spine Points above the current rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH, 1.0 percent, March 2021).

This award compares favourably with other sectors. Most public sector workers falling under the remit of the Westminster Government will be subject to a pay freeze for 2021-22, with a pay rise of £250 for workers earning below £24,000. In the not-for-profit sector the median pay award stands at 1.3 percent.

Pay spine compression

Following confirmation of the pay uplift, UCEA is willing to commit to the establishment of a New JNCHES working group to examine the drivers, impact and potential recommendations in respect of the compression of the pay spine.

The group would examine this issue to see what recommendations can be made jointly and to ensure that any proposals are properly costed. Our preference is for such a working group to develop a jointly agreed position which both UCEA and the trade unions could test with members in preparation for the beginning of the 2022-23 annual New JNCHES pay round.

Career development

Promoting career development is something which our members, as good employers, support. We would, therefore, propose the establishment of a joint working group to examine career development and training opportunities. We understand the aspiration of the joint unions that such a working group would explore, but not be limited to, technicians and the Technician Commitment and academic-related staff. We would anticipate that the working group would be able to identify good practice with regard to career progression from within and outside the sector. However, it would remain a matter for HEIs to determine their own policies on progression between grades.

Graduate Teaching Assistants

With reference to Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) contracts, UCEA is prepared to engage in joint work with the sector unions to establish information on the nature of GTAs and similar roles, and the nature of the issues faced by your members and ours in the use of such roles.

Workload management

As a sector of autonomous employers there is a range of approaches to monitoring workloads both between HEIs as well as in relation to different staff groups. Although workload is not within the scope of New JNCHES, UCEA is willing to recommend through its existing structure of the Higher Education Safety and Health (HESH) Forum that HEIs adopt the HSE Stress Management Standards approach (or suitable equivalent system), where they are not already doing so. UCEA wishes to continue to work with the trade unions outside JNCHES, through the HESH Forum and through the roundtable group on coronavirus workforce issues. This could include:

  • Potential changes to working practices and the impact on workload caused by the pandemic.
  • Local action to reduce the incidence of work-related stress ill-health.


Although redeployment is not within the scope of New JNCHES, UCEA would agree to enter into discussions with the joint trade unions outside of New JNCHES to explore whether there are examples of best practice and mechanisms which could be promoted to HEIs and further improve visibility of opportunities at different institutions.

Gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps

UCEA and its members share the commitment of the sector trade unions to taking action to reduce the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. This commitment was highlighted by the UCEA report Caught at the crossroads: outlining an intersectional approach to gender and ethnicity pay gaps in HE UCEA’s commitments in respect of the gender pay gap, and the steps already being taken by HEIs, were further underlined by the UCEA report Taking action: Tackling the gender pay gap which was also referenced in the joint unions' claim.

UCEA would, therefore, support the creation of a New JNCHES working group to examine the intersectional data to the extent it is available, and potential institutional-level solutions based on best practice. UCEA is also willing to endorse and encourage declarations in the collection of data on protected characteristics, in line with GDPR requirements.

UCEA final offer – New JNCHES negotiating round 2021-22
£ £ % £

3 16,736 602 3.60% 17,338
4 17,046 550 3.23% 17,596
5 17,361 540 3.11% 17,901
6 17,682 530 3.00% 18,212
7 18,009 520 2.89% 18,529
8 18,342 510 2.78% 18,852
9 18,709 500 2.67% 19,209
10 19,133 490 2.56% 19,623
11 19,612 480 2.45% 20,092
12 20,130 470 2.33% 20,600
13 20,675 460 2.22% 21,135
14 21,236 450 2.12% 21,686
15 21,814 440 2.02% 22,254
16 22,417 430 1.92% 22,847
17 23,067 420 1.82% 23,487
18 23,754 420 1.77% 24,174
19 24,461 410 1.68% 24,871
20 25,217 410 1.63% 25,627
21 25,941 400 1.54% 26,341
22 26,715 401 1.50% 27,116
23 27,511 413 1.50% 27,924
24 28,331 425 1.50% 28,756
25 29,176 438 1.50% 29,614
26 30,046 451 1.50% 30,497
27 30,942 464 1.50% 31,406
28 31,866 478 1.50% 32,344
29 32,817 492 1.50% 33,309
30 33,797 507 1.50% 34,304
31 34,804 522 1.50% 35,326
32 35,845 538 1.50% 36,382
33 36,914 554 1.50% 37,467
34 38,017 570 1.50% 38,587
35 39,152 587 1.50% 39,739
36 40,322 605 1.50% 40,927
37 41,526 623 1.50% 42,149
38 42,792 642 1.50% 43,434
39 44,045 661 1.50% 44,706
40 45,361 680 1.50% 46,042
41 46,718 701 1.50% 47,419
42 48,114 722 1.50% 48,835

Spine point
Salary from August 2020
Salary from August 2021