Members make their pension statement

November 27, 2014

Ninety members of the University and College Union sign a letter to Times Higher Education condemning the UCU’s compromise action on pensions (20 November), and THE gives this considerable prominence in its news coverage (“UCU accused of pensions betrayal and failure to act on pay threats”, News, 20 November). This could lead at least some readers to imagine that there is a serious – perhaps equal – split in the UCU between members supporting compromise talks and those wanting to carry on, or even step up, the now suspended industrial action.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ninety may seem a large number, but the reality is – and I know this from my local UCU association and from many others with which I have contact – that the vast majority of the 40,000+ UCU members in the Universities Superannuation Scheme are entirely in favour of attempts at a negotiated settlement and their views have been correctly reflected in suspension of the action by the union’s national executive.

Howard Moss
UCU Swansea University


There is a lot of devil in the detail of the plan, and I hope UCU attends to the following:

  • What is the UCU’s specific response to the letter to THE from senior mathematicians and statisticians challenging the basis of the valuation, and whether indeed there is a deficit?
  • What are its plans for people like me in their mid-fifties who are too young to retire early at the closure of the final-salary scheme but too old to put in a lot of earning years to build up alternative pension savings?
  • What compensation will there be for people who were mis-sold the USS? These include those who transferred in from schemes that maintain final salary (eg, Teachers’ Pension Scheme) as well as those who bought additional voluntary contributions on the basis of a false prospectus, and/or have been paying AVCs on the basis of a prospectus that the USS must have known for some time it had no intention of honouring.

The UCU has not done badly so far, but it needs firm resolve and a command of the detail here. Would it be prepared to crowdsource technical feedback on proposals from suitably qualified UCU/USS members?

Bill Cooke


There has been considerable discussion about the “existence” of a deficit in the Universities Superannuation Scheme but, it seems, next to none about its “origins”. That is, where did our pension funds disappear to?

The answer is to the hedge funds, commercial banks and other parts of the financial services industry, which in “creating” money from nothing did but transfer it from us to themselves. This is all set out in The Grip of Death by Michael Rowbotham and online via If university economics teaching were not broken (“Economics course drops 21% in NSS”, News, 13 November), academics would agitate more determinedly for something to be done about the financial sector and to retrieve our pensions money.

Douglas B. Kell
Research chair in bioanalytical science
University of Manchester

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Research Officer - Big Data for Better Outcomes LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Lecturer in Oral Microbiology UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest