340 higher education employers, including universities, research institutions and charities, offer the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a pension arrangement which forms a valued part of the remuneration package of many staff in higher education.
USS, along with many other schemes in the UK that provide defined benefits, has in recent years seen the costs of those benefits increase. Changes in the UK and global economy mean that expected returns in the future from the scheme’s investments are lower, meaning that more money is needed to fund the pension promises for future retirees.
The USS Trustee board has agreed to take forward the Joint Negotiating Committee’s (JNC) recommendations for concluding the 2020 USS valuation, saving pension scheme members and universities from steep contribution increases from 1 October 2021.
Members of the University Executive Board and the University of Nottingham UCU Branch have reached an agreement on issues surrounding USS pensions, staff pay, pay gaps, casualisation, and staff workload.
You can read the full agreement here which for the USS pension includes commitments to:
- Subject to March 2022 funding position support the improvement of member contributions or benefits (subject to consultation) without destabilising the pension scheme. This would be in advance of a March 2023 valuation.
- Call on the USS Board of Trustees to ensure that all future valuations are evidence-based and employ a reasonable, mutually agreed upon level of prudence.
- Respond to any positive changes resulting from future valuations of the scheme’s assets and liabilities by committing to improving member benefits or contributions as opposed to reducing employer contribution rates. It is noted that the views of our local branch of UCU are that benefit improvement would be preferable.
- UCU and UUK working together to explore the feasibility and promise of conditional indexation as a more cost-effective means of providing inflation protection as opposed to a cap on CPI revaluation.
- UCU and UUK working together to develop a solution that addresses affordability and access to pensions.
- UCU and UUK working together to develop proposals for governance reform in advance of the next valuation to ensure that USS is more accountable, transparent and collaborative with the higher education sector.
- Ensure that any future proposals of changes to benefits are preceded by a thorough analysis of their impact on women, minority groups and early career staff and are accompanied by concrete and mutually agreed upon measures to protect these groups from disproportionately negative impact.
- In order to preserve and improve benefits towards the pre - April 2022 situation in the future, the university would, subject to approval by Council, give full and serious consideration to supporting higher contribution rates as may be agreed as part of national negotiations. Approval by Council would be based on an assessment of the financial circumstances, recognition of staff benefits as a financial priority, and a view of long-term affordability.