Vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, Stuart Croft, has written to Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executives of Universities UK (UUK), challenging the group’s decision to abandon its current pension model.
In his letter, the vice-chancellor challenges the decision to change the USS pension scheme from a defined benefits model, asking the organisation to look instead at “less stark solutions”. Universities UK represents employers at 350 institutions, including the University of Warwick.
This came one day before the close of a vote where University and College Union (UCU) members decided whether to strike over changes to the USS. The results are yet to be made public. It is expected that the UCU higher education committee will evaluate the response in their meeting on Monday. Strike action may begin after Tuesday’s Joint Negotiating Committee meeting between the UUK and UCU, if the union has indeed voted to strike.
The growing rift between the union and Universities UK is over the USS pension scheme. Universities UK, citing the scheme’s £12.6 billion deficit, proposes to change the pensions scheme to a defined contributions model, meaning retirement income would come out of returns from investments in the stock market.
Stuart Croft was not the only person turning up the heat for the UUK in the last week of balloting. 960 professors signed an open letter against the new scheme, which was published in Times Higher Education. They argue that the current pensions regime “has provided compensation for relatively modest salaries and has acted as a powerful magnet to talented staff from around the globe”.
The letter comes one day before the close of a vote where members of the University and College Union voted on strike action
The vice-chancellor’s letter may have been a response to Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary’s letter to vice-chancellors urging them to challenge Universities UK’s position. “UCU members want a decent pension in retirement,” she wrote. “Your proposals do not offer that security and dignity.”
Stuart Croft also commented on the changes to the USS in November on his blog, writing that “[w]hatever happens we will not let the increasingly conservative approach to USS go unchallenged.” The National Union of Students and Warwick SU have also challenged the UUK in public statements.