UCU Committee message to management on 19 May 2021 re USS:

Dear Vice Chancellor, Chair of Council, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Registrar, 

I am writing on behalf of the local UCU committee to express our grave concern about UoN management’s shift away from questioning USS’s valuation method toward accepting the most recent UUK proposals. We note that, if implemented, the UUK proposals would imply significant cuts to our members’ pensions including the following:  

  1. DB (defined benefits) salary threshold reduced to £40k. Currently we receive DB for income up to about ~£60k. This would bring all but the lowest paid members into the Defined Contribution (DC) scheme, significantly reducing benefits, and constitutes a step in bringing back the DC scheme that industrial action threw out in 2018.
  2. Accrual rate reduced to 1/85 (from the current 1/75) cutting the value of future pension by 12%.
  3. Reduction in inflation proofing to 2.5%. Currently it is up to 10%. Inflation has been high in the past and could increase again. If inflation does increase, our pensions could be very quickly reduced to only a fraction of their current value. 

Equally important, even if staff were to accept these proposed cuts, there is no guarantee that we will not find ourselves in a similar situation a few years down the line, when the next valuation is carried out. This is why we are calling on you to demonstrate leadership and protect your employees. Use your voice within UUK and support UCU calls for a change to the valuation method.

Considering that the most recent valuation is dated 31 March 2020—at one of the worst possible dates during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic—and that the USS assets have nonetheless increased to £80 billion, we hope you understand that these proposals are simply unacceptable to UCU. For further details, feel free to have a look at the presentation by Sam Marsh, one of UCU’s national pension negotiators at

Taking industrial action is a matter of last resort for trade unions. However, if UoN management and UUK as a whole do not change their approach to USS, we may be left with no other option than balloting members. For the sake of your employees’ future and our current students’ education, we urge you in the strongest terms to support UCU’s proposal in your responses to the UUK consultation and thus help prevent yet another episode of widespread disruption to Higher Education.  



Prof. Andreas Bieler

(on behalf of UCU Branch Committee)