Students across the country are set to face disruption this week as university academics and administrative staff stage a one-day walkout in an ongoing row over pay.
Union leaders said that the time for talking was fast running out for the strike - due to take place on Thursday - to be called off.
Universities around the UK are expected to be affected by the action, according to the three unions taking the action - the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite.
They said they are expecting tens of thousands of members to take part in the walkout and that it will have a widespread impact.
But UCEA, and vice-chancellors group Universities UK (UUK), have predicted a "low level impact" on students.
The unions argue that a one per cent pay rise offered to university staff - including lecturers, technicians and administration workers - means there has been a 13 per cent pay cut in real terms since October 2008.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "There is widespread anger at the pay cuts staff have had to endure in recent years and all the reports we are getting is that Thursday's strike will be very well supported.
"We are amazed the employers are still refusing to sit down with us to try and resolve this without any need for disruption. There are precious few days left now, but our offer of talks remains open. If the employers refuse to move then there will be massive disruption across UK universities on Thursday. There was last time we were on strike over pay back in 2006 and this time our colleagues in Unite and Unison are also on strike."
A spokesman UCEA said: "Our higher education (HE) institutions tell us that the vast majority of staff understand the reality of the current environment and that the one per cent uplift for all, in addition to other pay increases that include service increments and merit pay for many, is a good outcome.
"The financial challenges and uncertainty facing the HE sector are genuine and our institutions know that the employment package they offer is an excellent one."