UNIVERSITY staff have vowed to continue their fight for better terms and conditions after a week of strikes gripped the UK.

Hundreds of lecturers, professors and students took part in a rally in the centre of Glasgow amid disputes over pensions and better pay, fairer workloads and more equal conditions which have affected higher education institutions across Scotland.

Workers at 12 Scottish universities and 48 south of the border walked out last week and have been manning picket lines since then.

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) says staff have reached “breaking point” and face real-terms cuts in pay changes to pensions for staff in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which the union says will leave members paying in more and receiving less in retirement.

UCU also fears that heavy workloads are affecting workers’ wellbeing, and also the quality of education being delivered to students. Strikes began on November 25 and are due to run until tomorrow.

The buoyant demonstration at the steps of the Royal Concert Hall heard from UCU branch members at many universities, union officials and University of Glasgow Rector Aamer Anwar.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady told the crowd: “Our employers continue to misjudge how we feel about our workplaces, how we feel about the future of eduction.

“People are sick and tired of working in a higher education [sector] that continually treats its workers as the shock absorbers of the business model that principals and vice-principals have chosen to adopt.

“Direct action works. What we’ve seen this week is that our employers do not expect us to do these things.”

She added: “Despite this being

a labour of love, we do not labour for free. We have two more days left of this strike. Make them as noisy, as big and make them as visible as you can, because we need it.”

Liam McCabe, President of the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland, said that the NUS stood in solidarity with university staff.

He said: “An attack on staff is an attack on the very heart of our education system, and I am proud that the student movement has, and always will, stand alongside you.”

The UCU is angry that members are now having to pay 9.6% in pension contributions, up from 8% and wants universities to pay the full increase instead.

The union estimates that, overall, changes to the pension could leave lecturers about £240,000 worse off in retirement, rising to £730,000 for professors.

Calls were also made to bring an end to casual contracts and to reduce the gender pay gap.