Investigations have revealed that at least 10 universities are involved in an underpayment scandal.

Recent reports have revealed that the University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Macquarie University have had to repay staff who were underpaid, while the University of Western Australia (UWA) is auditing its pay rates over similar matters.

This week, it has emerged that the University of Queensland (UQ), University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Murdoch University are all attempting to manage disputes over underpayment.

In one case, students were told that because marking rates are so low, not all assessments will be graded.

It comes as the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) prepares to take RMIT to the Fair Work Commission over marking rates that limit the amount of time to mark an essay and provide feedback to just 10 minutes per paper, which is half the previous allocation.

It appears that most of Australia’s major tertiary institutions are trying to manage casual staff and claims that the sector is propped up by an “underclass” of such workers.

There are also reports that university staff are facing a new method of underpayment – being forced to accept less money for moving courses online at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating several schools, including three of the elite Group of Eight research universities.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi has made a formal request for University of Melbourne, UNSW, University of Sydney, Macquarie University and the University of WA to appear before a Senate inquiry into wage underpayment.

The ombudsman is looking for input from staff at any other universities, and the NTEU has set up a national hotline.

“We're looking to gather evidence from across the sector to launch a wave of class actions,” NTEU national president Alison Barnes told reporters this week.

“If this can happen at 10 campuses, we're pretty sure it's happening across the sector.”