The government-commissioned review, led by Lord Hutton, the former Labour work and pensions secretary, affects about six million workers and sets out plans to ease the state’s £30 billion pensions liability.
Within higher education, an estimated 200,000 staff are eligible for public sector pension schemes, including the Teachers’ Pension Scheme for academics in post-1992 institutions and the Local Government Pension Scheme for non-academic staff.
Lord Hutton’s report, Independent Public Service Pensions Commission: Final Report, published today, recommends that the normal pension age of 60 among public sector workers should increase to match the state pension age, which by 2018 will be 65 for men and women, rising to 66 in 2020.
It also says that the most generous final-salary schemes should be scrapped and replaced with career-average arrangements.
Lord Hutton said: “In dealing with [the problems that we face] we have a number of choices: we can cut the benefits of pensioners, we can increase the contributions significantly. I think the responsible thing to do is accept that because we are living longer we should work for longer.”
Unions have raised the prospect of coordinated strike action in June over pension reform.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Decent pensions are essential if the UK has any interest in retaining its best and brightest; they are not an optional extra.
“We need to be doing all we can to try and keep the best and brightest young scientists, academics and researchers in the country, not attacking their few benefits.
“The reason UCU members are prepared to take their first national strike action for five years is because they see their pensions as deferred pay. Their pensions compensate for the lower salaries they receive carrying out research and teaching in universities than they would get if they chose to use their highly specialised knowledge and skills elsewhere.”