A seven-week ballot is beginning this week which could see professors and lecturers strike over plans to move university staff out of their defined benefit pension schemes.
The University College Union, which has 42,000 members across the UK, is balloting members on proposals by Universities UK, the body overseeing 350 higher education employers, to switch staff from DB arrangements into a defined contribution scheme.
400,000 academics and other university staff are currently part of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, but the £60bn scheme is facing a growing funding shortage.
Universities UK estimates that between £480m and £560m a year would be needed to plug the deficit, which is estimated at between £5.1bn and £7.5bn.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt told the Financial Times: “This was a real shock for members…Our members work hard and have not had high pay rises for many years, but they have always had their DB pension that they could rely on. To take this away now is extreme and we will not accept it.”
Another possible disruption for students after academics also staged a two-day walk-out last year is “regrettable”, Universities UK said.
UCU is understood to be discussing a possible judicial review of the change, not just industrial action.