Both unions said this week that they would recommend that their executive bodies endorse the proposals drawn up by Bill McCall, independent chair of the AUTNATFHE negotiations. How the two unions could build a closer working partnership has been under discussion for the past 18 months.
Union representatives feel they will be able to support their members more efficiently and economically by forging new links. But there has been continuous disagreement over the future structure.
While NATFHE has been pressing for a single union for higher and further education, the AUT has rejected a merger. Paula Lanning, NATFHE's head of communications and membership, said: "We must now work out the timetable for the completion of a comprehensive report and build on our working relationship. NATFHE still wants a strong overarching structure, so there is more work to do."
NATFHE has 38,667 members in further education and 16,856 in higher education. The AUT has 37,410 full members.