TWO UNIVERSITIES from the North East are to be hit by the UKs biggest higher education strikes.

14 days of walkouts will take place at Durham and Newcastle universities. They join staff of 74 other universities walking out over disputes with pay and working conditions, and rising pension costs.

The strikes by members of the University and College Union (UCU) will conclude on Friday March 13.

UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “It is incredibly frustrating that UCU members are being forced to walk out again to secure fair pay, conditions and pensions. This unprecedented level of action shows just how angry staff are at their universities’ refusal to negotiate properly with us."

“If universities want to avoid continued disruption then they need to get their representatives back to the negotiating table with serious options to resolve these disputes.”

Following the eight-day walkout before Christmas, this latest round of 14 strike days means the total number of walkouts will be 22 by March; higher than the previous record of 14 days in 2018.

Durham City MP Mary Foy visited picket lines at university sites in the city and addressed staff and students to express her support for their aims.

Mrs Foy said: "I was really pleased that I could visit UCU picket lines in Durham today. I met some fantastic staff and students who are working together to achieve equal pay, better working conditions, and pension justice. These are reasonable demands which I fully support, and I hope that all parties can come together and reach a solution that works for staff and students.It is important to remember that no one wants to strike. In this case staff will lose pay and students lose valuable contact hours. But the staff involved have not taken this decision lightly and it is brilliant that the students are supporting them. I hope to see the dispute resolved quickly, but in the meantime the workers and students have my solidarity and support.”