Number 108: #USSbriefs108

Neil Davies, University of Bristol

Photo by Aslak Raanes on Flickr

The USS valuation is based on assumptions. By changing these assumptions the USS can radically change the outcomes of the valuation such as the deficit and the costs of pension in future. One of the most important assumptions is the level of prudence on investment returns. Pension trustees are legally obliged to be prudent in the assumptions that underpin fund valuations, and adequately justify any changes to these assumptions from one year to the next. The USS 2020 valuation has brought these obligations into sharp focus, as a huge deficit and steep proposed increase in…

Number 107: #USSbriefs107

Deborah Mabbett, Birkbeck, University of London

Photo by Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

Another valuation cycle has come round, and USS has produced some new large numbers for the scheme’s deficit, ranging from £14b to £18b. These figures suggest that USS will not be able to pay the pensions it has promised without a substantial increase in contributions (see USSbriefs106). But assessing whether a pension scheme is adequately funded or not is an exercise shrouded in uncertainty. It requires guesses to be made about future investment returns, inflation and pensioner longevity. …

Number 106: #USSbriefs106

Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

On 3 March, after months of delays, USS revealed the outcome of their 2020 valuation. We’re used to their numbers being off the scale but this time they have outdone themselves. To keep benefits unchanged will, they say, require a contribution of somewhere between 42% and 56% of salary, much of which will be used to cover a huge deficit of around £15bn-£18bn. These figures have the potential to savage pay and conditions and rock the higher education sector. Luckily, they seem to be built on sand.

Checking the health of a defined benefit scheme…

Number 104: #USSbriefs104

Matthieu Burnay, Queen Mary University of London
Harriet Evans, University of Westminster
Perry Keller, King’s College London
Eva Pils, King’s College London
Tim Pringle, SOAS University of London
Sophia Woodman, University of Edinburgh

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

1. Introduction

We are a group of academics with many years of experience of teaching on China, including Hong Kong, in the fields of law, political sociology, labour relations, human rights, and gender politics. We are deeply concerned that, in their eagerness to maintain fee income from Chinese international students as near to pre-Covid levels as possible, some UK universities have signed up to a China-based system for providing…

Number 96: #USSbriefs96

Tom Cutterham, University of Birmingham

Image credit, Marcello Vicidomini:

Printable PDF under production


This month local branches of the University and College Union (UCU) up and down the country held their Annual General Meetings (AGMs), and elected new officers to their committees. I say ‘elected’, but there seems to have been precious little electioneering going on. Of the ten largest branches in our union, I know of only one that held a contested election this year.* On occasion, committee members may believe that it is in the branch’s best interests to avoid an election, and go to great lengths to avoid one. …

A statement from USSbriefs

Tuesday 10 March 2020

The results for UCU NEC (National Executive Committee) Election 2020 have been released today. USSbriefs endorsed 14 candidates — congratulations to 8 of them for winning seats, and commiserations to 6 who lost out this time round.

The 8 elected candidates include:

Number 91: #USSbriefs91

Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield

Printable PDF under production

This is a USSbrief, published on 9 March 2020, that belongs to the OpenUPP (Open USS Pension Panel) series. The author is a USS scheme member, a member of the University of Sheffield USS Working Group, a UCU-elected JNC member (June 2018-present), and is writing in a personal capacity.

1. Introduction

Shortly before Christmas 2019, the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) published their second report. This followed on from the well-received first report of autumn 2018, and its remit was to look in greater depth at the valuation processes and methodology. …

Number 90: #USSbriefs90

Tim Wilson, University of Dundee

Click for printable PDF

This is a USSbrief, published on 21 February 2020, that belongs to the OpenUPP (Open USS Pension Panel) series. The author is a member of UCU’s USS National Dispute Committee, and is writing in a personal capacity.

A great strength of the second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) is the articulation of how the USS Trustee has erred in allowing the valuation to determine the scheme objectives. The panel proposes to rectify this by facilitating agreement between the interested parties on a set of objectives and principles prior to…

Number 89: #USSbriefs89

Andrew Chitty, University of Sussex

Click for printable PDF

This is a USSbrief, published on 15 January 2020, that belongs to the OpenUPP (Open USS Pension Panel) series. [Update 18 January 2020: The author has responded to comments on his brief here.]

The remit of the second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was to make proposals for the governance of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and for its future valuation methodology or 'funding method' (JEP, 2019a). Scepticism about the valuation methodology, and the deficit and cost of future service it produced, was at the heart of the intellectual…

Number 88: #USSbriefs88

Nicky Priaulx, Cardiff University
Gail Davies, University of Exeter

Click for printable PDF

The deteriorating experience of university workers is central to understanding the pay element of the current 2019 UCU dispute. The ability of people’s take-home pay to cover increasing expenses is critical, but so too are working in conditions experienced in the context of accelerating casualisation, rapid staff turnover, and threats of redundancy. This aspect of the industrial dispute is harder to encapsulate in a claim, as issues are less easily quantified, statistics are patchy, and institutional practices differ.

In this USSbrief, we explore the statistics used by…


A set of papers written by University Staff and Students, on University Staff and Students, for University Staff and Students.

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