Students across the country are set to face disruption this week as university academics and administrative staff stage a one-day walkout in an ongoing row over pay.
Union leaders said that the time for talking was fast running out for the strike - due to take place on Thursday - to be called off.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) which represents and negotiates on behalf of institutions has said it is "disappointed" by the move.
Universities around the UK are expected to be affected by the action, according to the three unions taking the action - the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite.
They said they are expecting tens of thousands of members to take part in the walkout and that it will have a widespread impact.
It could mean lecturers or tutorials cancelled, or possibly even whole departments disrupted.
But UCEA, and vice-chancellors group Universities UK (UUK) have predicted a "low level impact" on students.
The unions argue that a 1% pay rise offered to university staff - including lecturers, technicians and administration workers - means there has been a 13% pay cut in real terms since October 2008.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "There is widespread anger at the pay cuts staff have had to endure in recent years and all the reports we are getting is that Thursday's strike will be very well supported.
"We are amazed the employers are still refusing to sit down with us to try and resolve this without any need for disruption. There are precious few days left now, but our offer of talks remains open. If the employers refuse to move then there will be massive disruption across UK universities on Thursday. There was last time we were on strike over pay back in 2006 and this time our colleagues in Unite and Unison are also on strike."
UCEA said that according to the latest data available to them, 378,250 people work in the sector and of these 29,538 or 7.8% voted from the three unions. Around 17,800 voted in favour of strike action.
A spokesman said: "Our higher education (HE) institutions tell us that the vast majority of staff understand the reality of the current environment and that the 1% uplift for all, in addition to other pay increases that include service increments and merit pay for many, is a good outcome.
"The financial challenges and uncertainty facing the HE sector are genuine and our institutions know that the employment package they offer is an excellent one.
"It is for trade unions to predict their support but, given that less than 5% of the HE workforce chose to vote in favour of strike action, our institutions tell us that they anticipate a low level impact on students."
UUK chief executive Nicola Dandridge, said: "We regret the decision by some union members to take industrial action this week. Employers have negotiated extensively and fairly with unions over pay throughout the year and we believe that the majority of staff understand the reality of the current funding situation.
"It is worth noting that only a small proportion of university staff have voted to take industrial action, so we do not expect it to have a major impact on students. The 2011 one-day strike over pensions had little impact on institutions, and universities put measures in place to ensure key services were maintained."Suggest a correction