Hundreds of University of Birmingham workers walked out on strike after being offered a pay rise of just one per cent.
Up to 800 staff members, mainly support workers like cleaners and library staff, downed tools amid claims that their financial struggles had been “ignored”.
Around 150 protesters manned a picket line at the university entrance on Edgbaston Park Road and another 100 attended a rally.
Two libraries were closed and others experienced disruption, closing early or operating with reduced staff.
Members of the Unison and Unite trade unions, which represent support staff, have also demanded the university pays the national living wage, £7.65-an-hour, to its lowest-paid workers.
The unions said the university currently paid cleaners £7.45-an-hour.
Unison branch secretary Matthew Raine said: “We regret the impact on students but this action sent a strong message to the university, bringing attention to staff issues which have been ignored.”
Unite branch secretary David Westwood said: “Many of our members are already finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“We believe the university could, and should, do more to support hard-working support staff.”
A university spokesman said lectures and other planned activities continued as normal.
She said: “The strike caused minimal disruption with only a handful of catering outlets and departmental libraries affected.
“We are disappointed Unison and Unite decided to take this action.
“For the last four years, our support staff pay awards have been above those negotiated nationally because we recognise staff at the lower end of the pay spectrum may be disproportionately affected by increases in the cost of living.”