Universities are bracing themselves for the most widespread disruption for years on Thursday as staff representing all employees from academics to cleaners walk out over a pay dispute.
Three unions - the University and College Union, Unison and Unite - are staging their first co-ordinated strike action over a one per cent pay offer made to them by university employers.
Lecture classes will be cancelled and picket lines mounted across the UK - with protest rallies being staged in university towns and cities, including Cambridge and Oxford.
Unison said over 4,000 staff were currently paid below the living wage in universities while more than half of the country’s vice-chancellors earned over £242,000 a year.
Mike McCartney, Unite’s national officer for education, said: “You have the curious scenario of highly-paid vice-chancellors at UK universities travelling the world extolling the merits of their universities to attract more foreign students.
“Yet, at the same time, our members who underpin these highly regarded institutions of academic excellence, are treated with disdain when they ask for a decent pay rise, at a time when household bills, such as energy costs, are going through the roof.”
University employers said that less than five per cent of the higher education workforce had voted in favour of strike action and they expected it to have “a low level impact on students”. They added that the GMB union had agreed to accept the offer.