"EXTENSIVE" strike action begins today as university staff take to the picket lines in the first of 14 days of strikes.

The walk-out is set to cause "major disruption" to 25,000 students.

But now students say they are supporting their lecturers and will join them on the picket line.

As previously reported Southampton University staff have planned the walk-out to protest about changes to their pension - which if brought in could see them £10,000 worse off.

Students Against Cuts spokesperson Ben Seifert said: "It's going to cost a lot in terms of education.

"It's the vast majority of the rest of my lectures up to the Easter break.

"But what we are saying is this disruption wouldn't be happening if the university and Universities UK weren't bringing in the pension changes.

"We are supporting the strike and a lot of students are supportive of their lecturers and know how hard our lecturers work for us.

"It could be disastrous for the future of education because most lecturers take a pay cut in comparison to the private sector in order to teach and do research.

"We don't want that to be the future of education - that we only get the lecturers that can't get work anywhere else."

As reported a separate consultation is also underway after proposed changes to pensions for university support staff.

Unions Unison and Unite claim the proposed closure of final salary pension scheme Pasnas would be a huge financial blow to 2,000 low-paid support staff, including librarians, exams officers, caterers and administrators - although those staff are not included in the strike action which starts tomorrow.

It comes just weeks after the university came under fire for issues including vice chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden's pay, the axing of up to 75 jobs, and a disused tower block which costs £100,000 a year.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Southampton will be on strike from tomorrow along with 64 other universities across the UK.

A rally has also been organised for 12pm on February 26 to be held outside the Education Building and the Institute for Life Sciences, addressed by UCU general secretary Sally Hunt and speakers from Unite and Unison.

The university has been forced to cancel its Science and Engineering Day on March 10 because of the industrial action. Up to 10,000 visitors were expected to attend

UCU regional official Moray McAulay said: "Nobody wants to take strike action, but staff at Southampton feel they have no choice. These hardline proposals would slash staff pensions and are simply uncalled for.

"It is staggering that the universities have refused to engage with the union and a real insult to staff and to students. We hope students will continue to put pressure on the vice-chancellors to get their reps back round the negotiating table."

Southampton University Students' Union recently voted to support the industrial action, and said they were "standing in solidarity with academic staff not only from Southampton but across the UK also who are taking what is a last-resort action to protect their pensions."

A university spokesperson said: "The University remains fully open, including services such as our libraries. It’s too early to assess the impact of the industrial action but we anticipate that the majority of lectures and teaching taking place as normal.

"Our message to students is to continue with their studies and preparations for assessments as normal. We’ll be supporting all students that are affected and will work with them to ensure their studies here continue successfully.

"We are very sorry that some of our students have been caught up in a national dispute. It is disappointing that industrial action is taking place and our sole priority has been to limit the impact on our students."