More than 70,000 lecturers and other staff at 150 universities will strike for three days later this month in a dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions, the University and College Union announced.
The National Union of Students said they would support the strikes due to take place on November 24, 25 and 30.
The University and College Union (UCU) said the strikes will be the biggest ever to hit UK universities and could impact 2.5 million students.
The union said disruption can be avoided if employers make improved offers, but warned that strike action will escalate in the new year alongside a marking and assessment boycott if the dispute is not resolved.
Every single university in the UK will strike on the following dates:
70,000 UCU members will be delivering the biggest picket lines in our history
RT if you stand with them. #ucuRISING pic.twitter.com/OrbzuG65n3
— UCU (@ucu) November 8, 2022
Union members will also begin industrial action short of strike action from November 23, which includes working to rule, refusing to make up work lost as a result of strike action and refusing to cover for absent colleagues.
The strikes come after UCU members overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action last month in two national ballots over pay and working conditions as well as pensions.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Campuses across the UK are about to experience strike action on a scale never seen before. 70,000 staff will walk out and make clear they refuse to accept falling pay, cuts to pensions and insecure employment.
“This is not a dispute about affordability – it is about choices. Vice-chancellors are choosing to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds whilst forcing our members onto low paid and insecure contracts that leave some using foodbanks. They choose to hold billions in surpluses whilst slashing staff pensions.
‘UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work. This dispute has the mass support of students because they know their learning conditions are our members’ working conditions.
‘If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple – this bout of strike action will be just the beginning.”
On pay and working conditions, the union is calling for a “meaningful” pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of “insecure“ contracts.
The union said employers imposed a 3% pay rise this year following more than a decade of below inflation pay awards.
In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding employers revoke a “package of cuts” made earlier this year which it claims will see the average union member lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income.
“For those at the beginning of their careers, the losses are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds,” said the UCU.
In a statement, they said: “ Students stand in solidarity with the 70,000 @ucu members striking later this month. Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions. We must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.”