Academics and university support staff will hold a one-day national strike at the end of this month, in an escalating row over pay and conditions.
Staff at universities and colleges across the UK will take part in the action, which, in a practically unprecedented step, will be undertaken by the main three university unions - the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite.
Unions are angry at this year's pay rise offer of just one per cent for university staff, including lecturers, technicians and administration workers, which they say means they've suffered a 13 per cent pay cut in real terms since October 2008.
The strike also takes into account growing numbers of zero-hours contracts offered to junior academics and technicians.
Pay and benefits for university leaders increased by £5,000 on average in 2011-12. The average salary for a vice-chancellor in the UK is now nearly £250,000.
Members will walk out on Thursday 31 October if the dispute is not resolved in the next two weeks.
Michael MacNeil, UCU's head of higher education, said: "Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay. Quite simply, enough is enough. We urge the employers to reflect on the fact that they are about to face their first ever strike by three unions at the same time and come to the negotiating table to resolve this dispute.
"The suppression of academic pay is one of the most sustained pay cuts since the Second World War and, while strike action is always a last resort, the fact that staff are prepared to take this step demonstrates just how angry they are."
Jon Richards, Unison's head of higher education, said: "Our members are upset and angry - this measly one per cent offer is simply not good enough. The work of support staff is essential for the smooth running of universities and they play a vital role supporting students, but many are struggling to survive on low pay."
At the time the unions announced plans to ballot members for strike action, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents and negotiates on behalf of universities as employers, said it was "disappointed" with the move.
It argued that together with the one per cent increase, more than 40 per cent of staff covered by the negotiations would be eligible for further pay progression, taking their pay increase to around four per cent.
The unions' announcement comes the day before two teaching unions - the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT - are due to stage a fresh regional strike in their continuing row over pay, pensions and workload.
Video: David Laws on NUT teachers strike