University pensions

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I was one of about 1,000 academics to sign this letter to the Times Higher Ed on university pensions:

We write as senior academics to express our concern about the proposal from Universities UK to end guaranteed pension payments in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (“UUK reforms ‘will cut USS pensions by up to 40 per cent’”, News, 30 November).

The USS is the main pension scheme for academic and related staff in the pre-92 institutions and, since its foundation, has provided a decent income in retirement for hundreds of thousands of people. In a sector where many would earn more working in the private sector, the USS pension has provided compensation for relatively modest salaries and has acted as a magnet for talented overseas staff.

The UUK proposals mean the replacement of guaranteed pensions with a defined contribution scheme that will be wholly dependent on movements in stocks and shares. First Actuarial estimates that a typical lecturer will receive £208,000 less under the proposals than presently. For universities that rely on the USS to help recruit and retain staff this will be a disaster, with lecturers enjoying retirement income of an estimated £400,000 less than their colleagues in the rival Teachers’ Pension Scheme, which mainly enrols staff in post-92 universities.

Young university staff work hard yet have endured years of pay restraint and casual contracts, while watching many at the top enjoy great rewards. Now that the USS — arguably the best aspect of the employment package — is at risk, we want to stand shoulder to shoulder with all our colleagues, and especially the next generation, to defend our profession.

I should make clear I am a member of the USS but my limited service means it will never keep me in old age.