University lecturers are warning of national strike action over redundancies in the wake of public spending cuts totalling £1.2bn this year.
Fifteen universities and colleges have already taken strike action this year over threatened compulsory redundancies.
Now the University and College Union is seeking a national agreement on job protection, warning that if it cannot be achieved a national ballot on industrial action is likely to follow. A union survey revealed that 6,500 jobs were being cut this year.
Sally Hunt, UCU's general secretary, said: "We have been dealing with this at local level but that can only go on for so long. If we are finding that the employers at national level are still refusing to have an agreement, we have no choice but to believe that it is because they anticipate there to be job losses and that's something we can't accept. If we can't get agreement, we are a trade union and we will do what we need to do to protect our members' interests and that of students."
A strike by university lecturers over jobs would be the first sign of industrial action against the coalition Government's attempts to cut public spending.
University employers' leaders said they were "disappointed" that the union was raising the spectre of industrial action.
"A one-size-fits-all approach [to job security] would be like the CBI creating an agreement for the private sector," said Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association.