Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to update you on the USS pensions negotiations following the publication of the second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) at the end of last year. There have been a number of positive developments that help establish progress towards a new agreement.

We first called for the JEP to be established in order to support a negotiated solution which preserves the long-term sustainability of the scheme for its members. Recent news suggests this independent, evidence-based approach that we have long advocated is helping the parties involved make progress towards that goal.

New talks between UCU, UUK and USS

The national organisations involved, UCU, UUK and USS recently committed to a series of five collective dialogues ‘to reach a better understanding and to have a full discussion on the recommendations of the JEP2 report, recognising substantial alignment of interests.’ This is a very welcome step in the right direction for all involved and has our full support.

In December, we wrote to the Pensions Regulator calling on them to take a flexible and thoughtful approach to JEP2. They responded that they are ‘…engaging with the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) and will consider their recommendations carefully…’. Their continued support for these new talks and the outcome of the consultation process will be crucial to successfully concluding the 2020 valuation and securing the long-term future of the scheme, and we will continue to remind them of their commitment.

Following the JEP2 report, UCU, UUK and USS have developed Statements of Purpose and Shared Valuation Principles and will continue discussions around scheme governance issues at future talks. You can find more information and summaries of the meetings held to date on our USS webpages.

UUK consultation with USS employers on JEP2

UUK are now consulting with USS employers on JEP2 and as always we will be seeking your input to help inform our response. The first phase of the consultation will gather the initial views of employers on JEP2 and how its recommendations might be applied to the 2020 valuation. 

We sought the expertise of our own community to help us understand the implications of the first JEP report and Professor Axel Gandy (Chair in Statistics) and Professor David Miles (Professor of Financial Economics) (who both gave evidence to the JEP panel) are now looking at the JEP2 recommendations. We will share their views with colleagues as part of our own process. 

Over the coming weeks we will be holding meetings with Heads of Department and our UCU representatives and we invite you to send your feedback on JEP2 to by Friday 21 February. The College response will then be approved by Provost’s Board on Tuesday 25 February and published on our USS webpages ahead of the 28 February submission deadline.

There will be two subsequent consultation phases. These will seek employers’ views on the options for the 2020 valuation and the impact on contribution rates. Colleagues will of course have the opportunity to feed into these consultation phases when they are announced.

Pay and Benefits Review

We recognise that pensions are a component of an overall remuneration package that is sustainable, equitable and fair and reflects the College’s standing as a world-leading university.  We continue to work with you to improve the current offer.  This includes working with our Joint Trade Unions representatives on the use of fixed term contracts, managing workloads and the gender pay gap. This year’s pay and benefit consultation will be informed by the new Pay and Employment Benchmarking Report (from a working group led by Professor Nigel Brandon, Dean of Engineering). This compares salaries and benefits from comparable institutions in the US and Europe. The report will be reviewed by Provost’s Board this week, and a decision made on implementing its recommendations. Our aspiration is to be competitive in our compensation, recognizing the different environments in which we and our competitors operate. The report and the outcomes of the Board’s deliberation on alignment of pay to comparator benchmarks will be shared with you. Provost’s Board will undertake further work this year on other benefits, including support for housing. We invite your feedback and ideas about benefits and overall remuneration as we embark on this further work to

We will continue to press for openness and transparency from all parties involved in the discussions and keep you updated as further developments take place. In the meantime, please visit our USS webpages for more detailed information.

Best wishes

Alice and Ian

Professor Alice P. Gast, President

Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost