Professor Karen Cox

USS pensions – VC calls for renewed national discussions

Following her recent letter to staff concerning the national situation on USS pensions and the industrial action which some UCU members will be taking from tomorrow, the Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Karen Cox has today written to the Chief Executive of Universities UK to express the University’s deep frustration at the way national negotiations appear to have stalled.

In her letter, she says:  “We are working hard to mitigate the impact on our students while maintaining high academic standards but, given that we are not free to resolve this issue at a local level, we remain deeply frustrated by the apparent deadlock in discussions at national level.

“We agree that the proposals put forward by UCU are unaffordable and, here at Kent, they would add £4.5m to our staff costs, which is not sustainable. However, we also believe there may be opportunities that may provide some basis for renewed discussions with the UCU and we are not clear whether these have yet been explored.

“We recognise that there are pressures from the Pensions Regulator and from other member universities to ensure that the scheme has a lower risk profile and that the Joint Negotiating Committee has had to balance the competing views. We all wish to see a sustainable pension scheme that does not require revision every few years, with the uncertainty and disruption that would be brought by this. However, you will recall that we have consistently raised questions over the decision to de-risk the USS investment strategy with UUK and directly with USS.

“The areas that I feel might be explored further include:

  • whether there is scope for deferring the implementation of the de-risking of the investment strategy, given that it largely drives the increase in the projected deficit.  It would make sense to revisit the discussions on risk in an informed and measured manner, and to fully consider a range of options including the re-introduction of some element of Defined Benefits into the scheme if investment returns exceed the 2017 assumptions.
  • whether there might also be further consultation with employers as to whether some limited additional contribution might be made should the currently proposed changes go ahead.”

You can find all the latest information for staff about the proposed pension changes and the industrial action on the HR website including the latest update from UUK.