A survey of 4,000 UK university staff has revealed stark differences in opinion regarding the need for reforms to higher education pensions.
Some 48 per cent of academics who have so far taken part in the 2015 Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey disagree that university pension provision needs to be reformed for the sustainability of the sector, while only per cent of those in professional and support roles hold this opinion.
Russell Group academics are marginally more likely to agree that pensions need to be reformed (25 per cent) than academics across the sector as a whole (24 per cent), with more than a third (34 per cent) of those in professional and support roles saying the same. The remainder of respondents did not declare an opinion on the issue.
Responding to our survey, which is still open to all employees of UK universities, a professor at a university in London that is a member of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, said that the “proposed changes to the pension scheme are wholly unacceptable and very demotivating”.
“We were told in 2011 that the changes then would make the scheme sustainable,” he said. “What is happening now will have a major long-run negative effect on our capacity to attract the best staff internationally, and breaks the fundamental contract that we thought we had when we entered the academic profession.” Proposals to move staff at pre-92 universities who pay into the USS’s final salary scheme to a career revalued benefits scheme, introduced for new entrants in 2011, resulted in a marking boycott by members of the University and College Union, which began on 6 November. The action is suspended at the time of writing.
A spokesman for the UCU said: “The THE survey shows what UCU has been saying is true, namely that many staff are unconvinced of the need for the extreme reforms proposed by the employers.”
Universities UK has said that it is committed to preserving an “affordable, attractive and sustainable pension scheme” but that a recovery plan is needed to address an £8 billion deficit.
As THE went to press, hard-line UCU members were still calling for a special conference of branch delegates to decide on the way forward in the pensions dispute, amid concern about union leaders’ decision to accept the potential end of the final salary element of the USS.
Thirteen union branches have reportedly passed motions calling for such a conference. If 20 branches pass the motion, the UCU will be required to hold the event.