Category: Pensions

USS Under Attack

Attention All USS Members!

In light of the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel and on the new material evidence that has come to light showing that USS’ valuation is demonstrably flawed, it’s very important that large numbers of USS scheme members send a clear and unified signal to USS and to our employers regarding the way in which USS has handled its 2017 valuation. UCU Imperial urges you all to submit a consultation response this week along the lines of this template in this USS Brief:
Number 61: #USSbriefs61


Strike Action

UCU members took serious and sustained industrial action in the face of damaging proposals from the employers. Imperial UCU experienced fantastic turnout on picket lines and an almost 60% increase in membership throughout the dispute.

At the start of the dispute, the employers wanted to end guaranteed pension benefits. They refused to enter into further talks. Strike action and action short of a strike brought the employers back to the negotiating table for ACAS talks which resulted in a proposal which was subsequently rejected. On 23 March, UUK agreed a new proposal to be put to UCU members in a consultative ballot. On 13 April, the results of this ballot were announced. UCU members voted to accept the UUK proposal.


Imperial UCU Calls on College Management to Support a Return to the USS September 2017 Valuation

In their email to staff of 27th February, The President and Provost suggested a further delay to spend more time scrutinising the assumptions and methods of the USS valuation.

Imperial’s Registrar has been a key participant in the USS Valuation Discussion Forum, Imperial also took part in a preliminary consultation in February/March 2017 on the assumptions of the valuation, and a further consultation in September 2017. Senior people at Imperial do not need lessons on the technical side.

A minority of USS institutions rejected the proposed level of risk in the already prudent September 2017 consultation, prompting USS to revise the valuation in November, introducing even more prudence and further increasing the “deficit”.

As between the September and November valuation approaches, Imperial has sufficient information to know that it makes more sense to delay the ‘de-risking’ to years 11-20 rather than to start it immediately. The November 2017 USS presentation to Imperial, reinforces this case.

Imperial’s own expert working group said in their 10th November reportIt is important to realise that the words “de-risking” are being mis-used. Moving the scheme to less risky investments appears a “good” thing, but these less risky investments have historically poor returns and now is probably an optimally poor time to make this change. Other institutions within UUK appear to have misunderstood that de-risking now is potentially “risking” instead.

Although the USS valuation must be publicly scrutinised, there is no need to delay things in the meantime. Imperial should already be in a position to re-iterate its support for the September 2017 valuation, as compared with the November one, and to call for UUK and USS to return to the September valuation.


Useful Resources:

UCU frequently asked questions:

See how the proposed change might potentially reduce your expected pension by between 40% – 75% with this DB / DC comparison spreadsheet from Mike Otsuka, LSE

Blogs by Dennis Leech, Emeritus Professor of Economics Warwick, Visiting Professor of Government, London School of Economics

Blogs by Mike Otsuka, Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method at LSE, including Would a shift from bonds to growth assets keep the USS afloat?

Blogs by Henry Tapper, Director of First Actuarial

Articles by Jo Cumbo, Pension Correspondent, The Financial Times

USSbriefs: a set of papers by academics on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute


Strike Flyers & Leaflets




Imperial Communications:

Open Letter to President and Senior Management 2502018

Letter from President and Provost 27022018

Open Letter to President and Senior Management 04032018

Letter from President and Provost 06032018

Open Letter to President and Senior Management 06032018

Letter from President and Provost 09032018

Open Letter to President and Senior Management 09032018

USS Letter Pensions Regulator to UUK 07122017

Pensions update April 2016

Despite considerable objections by UCU members, the USS Pensions Scheme is changing, starting in April 2016. Further information on these changes can be found at the main UCU site. UCU is negotiating on your behalf on the latest changes to the USS Pensions Scheme


Members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) had been in dispute with their employers after the umbrella group, Universities UK, tabled detrimental changes to USS pension benefits in autumn 2014.

UCU members have voted to accept new proposals for their pensions and not restart a marking and assessment boycott at 69 UK institutions. Two-thirds (67.1%) of those who voted agreed to accept the new proposals.

Pensions campaign

USS changes 2015-16

Members will have seen communications confirming the ballot outcome and the ending of the USS dispute. A candid report from the negotiators is also available (Appendix of UCUHE/241, PDF)

Imperial College has strongly criticised the deficit valuation methodology as have some other universities, UCU and independent analysis by First Actuarial and the respected education newspaper The Times Higher Education