UNIVERSITY lecturers are to be balloted on strike action in a dispute over pay.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has called for a fair rise for university lecturers, arguing their pay has been cut in real terms by more than 20 per cent over the past decade.

The union has confirmed it will open a ballot to members on Wednesday on whether or not to take industrial action.

A number of strikes were held last year by college lecturers as they called for a cost of living increase in pay.

In May, members of the EIS Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-FELA) voted by 88 per cent in favour of a revised pay deal.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Higher education lecturers deserve a fair pay settlement following years of pay decline.

"Lecturers' pay has been cut, in real terms, by more than 20 per cent over the past decade while the pay of university principals has soared.

"Workload is increasing across the sector, placing ever greater strain on lecturing staff who are working harder and longer for ever-decreasing pay.

"It is now time for Scotland's higher education lecturers to take a stand and demand the fair pay deal that is due to them."

Mr Flanagan also warned of attacks on the workers' rights in future as a result of the Conservatives winning a sizeable majority at Westminster in last month's general election.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said industrial action is not in anyone's interest.

"Universities are autonomous institutions and matters relating to pay and working conditions and pensions are for them to determine," he said.

"Industrial action is in no-one's interests, especially students', and I expect management and unions to make every effort to reach a settlement on these matters."