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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK
'Meltdown' threat to universities
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News education reporter at the AUT council

Sally Hunt (left) and academics at the London School of Economics
The boycott of exam and coursework marking began in March
Universities will face "meltdown" unless the dispute over lecturers' pay is quickly resolved, a union leader is expected to warn.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers (AUT), will say members are willing to "stick it out".

The AUT has refused a 12.6% pay increase over three years and is continuing to boycott exam marking.

Employers say this is "irresponsible" and that students will suffer.

'Listen to us'

Thousands of final-year undergraduates across the UK face the threat of having their graduations delayed by the dispute.

On Thursday, Aberdeen University announced it would press ahead with the 12 % pay offer to staff despite union opposition.

Ms Hunt, addressing the AUT's annual council in Scarborough, will call for vice chancellors to "listen to their staff".

She will add: "It is still not too late to make us an offer that reflects what we are worth.

"The money is there and even the employers accept that now."

On Monday, talks between higher education unions and the Universities and Colleges' Employers' Association (UCEA) broke down.

The UCEA raised its offer from 3% for each of the next two years to 12.6% over three years.

But the AUT, and the other main lecturers' union Natfhe, said this was "far too low".

They are calling for a settlement figure nearer 25% over the next few years, which they say will help make up for declining earnings over the last 20 years.

'National settlement'

The boycott of exam and coursework marking began in March.

The AUT is also refusing to set exam papers. In her speech, Ms Hunt will say she is "prepared to do whatever I can to resolve the dispute".

She will add: "The only way it will be resolved is through a national settlement between the unions and UCEA."

The UCEA says its 12.6% offer is final and that the unions are wrong to use students' futures as a bargaining tool.

The AUT is expected to debate its next steps on Thursday.

Students 'not able to graduate'
13 May 06 |  Education

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