Kingston lecturers are on the verge of striking in protest over university cuts, job security and changes to pension schemes.
Across the country, two thirds of staff voted ‘yes’ to the University and Colleges Union ballot for industrial action.
Nationwide university strikes are planned for the week beginning March 21, the same week that chancellor George Osbourne reveals the budget.
Over sixty universities have confirmed that they will strike, and Kingston UCU members have hinted at future plans.
Mike Roberts, politics lecturer and Kingston’s UCU branch Vice Chairman, said: “No decision has been made to hold any strike action at Kingston… yet.
“We hope that all our students understand that we are only balloting for action because our employers [Universities and Colleges Employers Association] have refused to negotiate with us.
“I’d expect the UCU to try to persuade the UCEA to negotiate with us before we call action.”
Last year, George Osbourne announced a 40 per cent cut in funding for universities. Kingston University plans to cut expenditure by £9 million over two years.
Staff have since faced pay cuts and changes to their pension schemes. Many lecturers are also worried about their job security as up to 40,000 university staff across the country could lose their jobs.
Speaking to lecturers at Kingston, acting Vice Chancellor David Mackintosh said: “I do hope that those of you who are members of UCU will give careful thought to the consequences of voting for such action, both in terms of the effect on our students and ultimately on the financial stability of the University.
The temporary Vice Chancellor added a veiled threat.
“For all those participating in strike action, pay can be deducted at the rate of 1/260 of salary for each day taken as strike action.
“In addition reckonable service for pension calculations may be lost.
“Pursuing industrial action is not a solution to dealing with the very serious challenges we face. There is much uncertainty at present and this course of action will only damage students, institutions and the sector as a whole.”
Dr Andy Higginbottom, a Kingston politics lecturer and UCU secretary, said: “These measures against lecturers are the flip side of tuition fee increases, both are huge steps towards the effective privatisation of higher education.
“We want to work closely with students to defend the university as a public sector service for the future of all young people.
“We hope that students and staff will unite in action in favour of widening participation.”
In response to the nationwide plans, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Considering the limited timetable we had to ballot, this is a fantastic result and a clear mandate for action.
“I will go to every length possible to resolve this dispute and hope the employers will agree to go the extra mile too.
“However, UCU members have made it quite clear today that if a settlement is not possible, they are prepared to strike.”