Academics and students plan joint strike action

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The Independent Online

Universities face massive disruption after academics voted yesterday to strike over pay and unite with students protesting against top-up fees.

Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted in favour of strike action by a two-to-one majority. The lecturers are expected to join the National Union of Students (NUS), which is protesting against the introduction of £3,000 top-up fees, in a campaign to bring universities to a standstill this month. It will be the largest demonstration of anger since the Higher Education Bill narrowly escaped defeat by rebel Labour MPs.

The association's ruling executive will confirm tomorrow whether it will press ahead with walkouts fromMonday 23 February. The date coincides with the start of a campaign of disruption planned by the NUS.

The AUT, which has 47,000 members, balloted members over a pay package which vice-chancellors claim will modernise university salaries and give staff a basic rise worth 6.44 per cent over two academic years. But the association is unhappy about the planned revision, which it claims could lead to a significant loss of wages over an extended period.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said it was "wrong and opportunistic" of the AUT to link the pay dispute with the Bill introducing top-up fees.