The Association of University Teachers said full-time admissions officers and staff whose jobs mainly involved processing applications could work despite the boycott on Thursday and Friday. A spokeswoman for the AUT said union law prevented full-time admissions staff from joining the boycott because the vote had been for industrial action, not a strike.
"Staff who are wholly involved in admissions work... who decided to refuse to do that admissions work would be going on strike," she said.
The union said only a small number of staff would be exempt, and that the action would force vice-chancellors to take notice. Universities said contingency plans were in place and that students would face little disruption.
The union's tactics have come under fire from David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, who accused lecturers of scoring "a major own goal" with the boycott.
The union said: "We have worked very hard to ensure that there is the least inconvenience to students, but it is impossible for university staff to take action that does not have some impact on students."
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