Newcastle University vice-chancellor, Professor Chris Day, has today broken rank with Universities UK to support striking lecturers and called for negotiations on pensions to resume.

Professor Day was speaking as members of UCU walked out this morning for the first of 14 strike days scheduled over the next month. Sixty-four universities* are being hit by the unprecedented disruption that will affect more than 1 million students.

In his statement, Professor Day said he "absolutely supported staff's decision to strike", saying he didn't know "what else they could do to express their concerns about the current situation". He said he was meeting the employer body, Universities UK (UUK), today and would "urge strongly that negotiations need to recommence."

UCU said that this intervention was welcome and added to the long list of people putting pressure on UUK to get back around the table to resolve the dispute. Earlier today, both Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and universities minister Sam Gyimah called for talks to be resumed, and UCU welcomed an indication from UUK that they may be willing to return to negotiations.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Professor Day's support for striking staff is very welcome, and it is good to know that he is pushing UUK to get back to the negotiating table. He is the latest in a line of staff, students and politicians calling for talks to be resumed to sort out this dispute.

'UCU remains ready to negotiate and avoid further unnecessary disruption. We would encourage more vice-chancellors to keep the pressure on UUK and make their position clear so that staff and students know how they are being represented by their institution.'