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USS action information for HoDs/HoSs

Dear RUCU members,

I understand that during the last couple of days there have been meetings between managers (i.e. Heads of School) and HR to determine how to ‘manage’ this industrial action, how to reallocate marking, examining and so on.  HR seem to be labouring under the assumption that only the physical act of marking or setting examinations is affected by this industrial action.  That is not true, the action includes ALL aspects of the process, including all administration work associated with formal assessment. That includes allocation (or reallocation) of marking and examining.  This is detailed in the attached UCU briefing note, and I have checked with UCU Head Office today that is still the case.

I quite understand that this may put some managers who are UCU members in a difficult position.  If you would like to discuss this further, please can you let Anne know ( and we will arrange a discussion meeting one lunchtime.

Best wishes,

Paul Hatcher

RUCU President

UUK obstinacy has forced UCU marking boycott | Opinion | Times Higher Education

UUK obstinacy has forced UCU marking boycott | Opinion | Times Higher Education.

University of Warwick latest to criticise pension plans as university splits deepen

originally posted on:

The University of Warwick is today the latest institution to break rank and criticise the universities’ umbrella group Universities UK over its handling of changes to university staff pensions.

In a response to UUK’s proposals released to University of Warwick staff, the Russell Group institution criticises the lack of options put forward by UUK and says it would have liked to have seen a number of different scenarios.

It questions how attractive the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will look when put alongside schemes at other universities, which are also undergoing reform. It also complains that staff at the UK’s most elite institutions who aspire to do well will be penalised the most under the changes.

Warwick is one of 69 universities that could face industrial action in a row over changes to USS after members of UCU overwhelmingly backed industrial actionearlier this week.

Warwick says it wants a compromise that leaves a scheme capable of attracting and retaining ‘the talent needed to sustain the university’s development in the future. Modelling done by UCU showed how radical changes to USS would leave members worse off than their contemporaries at other institutions.

UCU’s higher education committee is meeting this afternoon to discuss recent talks between the union and employers over the changes and will decide whether or not to call strike action. If the committee does back industrial action, an announcement on what form that action would take and when it would start will be made on Monday morning.

The University of Warwick is not the first to break rank and criticise UUK. Last week the University of Oxford described a briefing from the Employers Pension Forum (a group set up by UUK) as misleading.

Yesterday a group of statisticians said assumptions used by the employers in a separate briefing contained ‘misinformation and a mistake‘ and were not adequately justified. The employers had previously removed a whole section from a different briefing after it was revealed they had misused statistics.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The list of people who are unhappy with the employers’ proposed changes to staff pensions grows by the day. Universities are now starting to break rank and express their concerns over the process, the limited options available and their damaging impact.

‘We are not surprised institutions have these fears as we share them. We would encourage other universities to go public with their concerns and lobby UUK to engage in meaningful negotiations with us about how we can improve the pension scheme and ensure it remains attractive to members and potential members.’

Universities UK wants to end the final salary element of the scheme for all USS members and move them to a career average (career revalued benefits or CRB) scheme. Under this model members would receive CRB benefits only up to a salary threshold of £50,000. After they hit the threshold, employers will pay only 12 per cent of income into a defined contribution scheme, which shifts the risk to scheme members, and would rely on successful investments.

UCU News: University staff vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in pensions row

originally posted on:

Staff have overwhelmingly backed plans for industrial action at 69 UK universities in a row over changes to pensions.

In the ballot, 78% of members of the University and College Union (UCU) who voted, voted for strike action and 87% voted for action short of a strike, which could include a marking boycott. The turnout of 45% was the highest in a national higher education ballot since UCU was formed in 2006.

Talks are scheduled on Wednesday between the union and the employers’ representatives. The union said if the employers continued with their proposals then the union would meet on Friday (24 October) to decide what form the disruption would take and when it would start.

The ballot made it clear to members that a vote for action would most likely lead to a marking boycott and a refusal to set exams. The action would stop students being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is the pension scheme for staff at the UK’s ‘old’ universities and covers the most selective institutions including the Russell Group of universities. The changes have been prompted by an expected deficit in USS. However, UCU says the methodology used to determine the deficit is too simplistic and doesn’t take account of the scheme’s underlying strengths.

Since 2011, when the last set of detrimental changes to members’ pensions were made, the fund’s investments have grown by £8bn, the number of members has grown by 18% and returns on investment have outperformed both average earnings and inflation.

However, Universities UK want to reduce the coverage of the defined benefit element of the scheme and introduce a riskier defined contribution pension scheme, with those in or aspiring to the highest academic grades suffering most.

Modelling done by First Actuarial has shown that academics would be thousands of pounds worse off if the changes did go through. Last week UUK was under fire for providing misleading information and using dodgy statistics in its pension briefings.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘UCU members at universities across the UK have made it quite clear today that they reject the radical changes being proposed for their pensions. We will go into talks on Wednesday hopeful that we can resolve the current impasse.

‘However, we will go into that meeting with a serious mandate from members that they need to see real improvements. If the employers do not address our concerns then we will meet on Friday to determine what forms of disruptive action we take and when they would start.’

USS reforms: income gap widens on redbrick v post-92 pensions | News | Times Higher Education

USS reforms: income gap widens on redbrick v post-92 pensions | News | Times Higher Education.

RUCU response to staff portal message about proposed changes to USS

There is a message from the university on the changes to USS on the staff portal of the University of Reading web site: . Here is OUR RESPONSE to the various points made by the university which are in our view not an accurate, but a biased representation of what’s going on.

1. No Formal Proposals. While the final proposed changes to USS have not yet been formally approved, the main features of these changes have been clear for some time.

2. Consultation. There is a legal obligation on the employers to consult the members, but when we were consulted on the previous changes in 2011, the result was a long running industrial dispute and threats of legal action against the five UCU members of the Joint Negotiating Committee. So much for consultation and negotiation.

3. Size of the Deficit. The calculation of the scheme deficit relies on forecasts of future asset returns, interest rates, longevity etc for the next forty or fifty years. Therefore there are a large number of possible estimates of the deficit, and USS itself produces five different deficit figures at each valuation using five different valuation methodologies. Therefore, any deficit figure is just an opinion.

4. Not Cost Reduction. The cost of providing the proposed pensions will be substantially lower than is currently the case because the proposed pensions are substantially inferior to our current pensions, and it is quite possible that the employers will be able to reduce their contribution rate.

5. An Excellent Scheme. First Actuarial have produced some illustrations of the effects of the proposed changes to USS. Someone who joined the USS final salary section at the age of 35 and retires at the age of 69 with a final salary of £70,000 will have a pension that is 45.3% lower than it would be under the existing scheme – a reduction of £18,551 per year. If this person had joined the current Teachers Pension Scheme (which covers the post-92 universities) their pension would have been £12,175 per year higher than their USS pension will be under the proposals.

6. Public Sector Scheme. USS is not a public sector pension scheme.

More information and resources are available on the UCU web site: and

Best wishes,
Reading UCU