Crunch talks have failed to bring an end to an unprecedented marking boycott which has led to thousands of university students graduating without grades.
The University and College Union (UCU) met with the body representing 145 institutions as staff continue to refuse to mark or assess papers in a fierce row over pay.
The dispute has been ongoing since April and has resulted in blank certificates being issued at ceremonies.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has tabled a pay offer worth between 5% and 8%.
Union bosses have rejected the increase and blamed, what they call, the “scandalous” disruption on the UCEA.
Amid the fallout, it has emerged some foreign students hoping to continue further studies in the UK are being forced to return home and reapply for visas because their degree work is ungraded.
Will Scheffler, an international relations graduate at the University of Edinburgh, told Sky News of the stress he is enduring.
The student, from Wisconsin in the US, has an offer for a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics, but says he will have to return home before the course begins.
He said: “I am one of several thousand students around the UK who have plans to go on to do post graduate study. Due to the ongoing marking and assessment boycott, we are graduating without a degree classification.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of stress and frustration around that, and unfortunately, it’s now started to impact our immigration status as well.
“I’ll have to pay upwards of about £1,000 just to get back home to Wisconsin. I have a job here, I pay rent on a flat here as well.”
The Home Office told Sky News there were various options open to foreign students.
A spokeswoman said: “Students who wish to progress their studies without their results can request a letter of formal written confirmation from their sponsor assessing the student is highly likely to complete their course successfully.
“They also have the option to return to their home country and apply for another student visa out of country.”
Mary Senior, UCU’s Scotland representative, said she was grateful that negotiators met on Friday in a bid to resolve the row.
She said: “We are relieved the employers have finally come back to the negotiating table. They need to address the disruption we have seen in the university sector.
“It has been scandalous that students have been graduating with empty scrolls. Our members are resolute, and the employers need to make an offer that can resolve this dispute.”
UCU and UCEA issued a joint statement following the talks.
A spokesperson said: “Today’s exploratory talks between UCEA, UCU and the other joint unions’ side secretary were constructive, although there is still significant ground to be covered.
“We have explored obstacles to resuming negotiations and bringing an end to the marking and assessment boycott, with both sides recognising the complexity of the issues.
“Both sides welcomed the positive tone of the discussion and have identified dates for further urgent talks.”