14 March 2018

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Updated 18 October 2018

These are materials on the current USS pensions dispute

Other pages on this site:
UCU Congress 2018
Marketisation (of higher education)
Regulations (governing USS)
Terminology (for DB pension schemes)
Timeline (of the dispute)

Hashtags:
CDC = Collective Defined Contributions discussion
CS = cost sharing
DC = Defined Contribution proposals
E = equality implications of USS changes
H = history
JEP = Joint Expert Panel
JNC = Joint Negotiating Committee
TPR = the Pensions Regulator related
S = strike related
UCU = UCU related
V = valuation process in general
VM = valuation methodology (including discussions over 'de-risking')

Acronyms at bottom of page.

October 2018

#VM Test 1 de-risking is dead, long live de-risking!, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 18 Oct 2018

#VM #USS ValuationGate, Caption Generator, 17 Oct 2018 (video)

#VM USS dismisses claims of 'flawed' pension scheme valuation, Chris Parr and Martin McQuillan, Research Professional, 17 Oct 2018

#VM University pension fund accused of exaggerating shortfall, Josephine Cumbo, FT, 16 Oct 2018

#VM 'There must be something missing here': Sam Marsh exposes new problems with the USS valuation, Felicity Callard et al, USS Briefs 59, 16 Oct 2018

#VM Claims of a 'large and demonstrable error’ in the valuation, USS, 16 Oct 2018

#VM Initial USS responses to Sam Marsh's analysis of Test 1, Google Docs, 15 Oct 2018

#VM Turbulence and plane crashes are not the same: UUK's muddled 'risk appetite', Sean Wallis, Convention for Higher Education, 15 Oct 2018

#VM A flawed valuation: a laypersons's guide to my findings on USS's 'Test 1', USS Briefs 58, 15 Oct 2018

#VM USS's valuation rests on large and demonstrable mistake, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 13 Oct 2018

#JEP FAQs on the USS JEP report and 'no detriment', UCU UCL, 4 Oct 2018

September 2018

#JEP Backing for defined benefit pensions scheme bucks trend, Josephine Cumbo FT, 27 Sep 2018 (reprinted here)

#JEP Universities UK consultation with USS emplyers on JEP recommendations, USS Employers (UUK), 24 Sep 2018

#JEP UCU superannuation working group endorses JEP report on USS pension scheme, USU, 21 Sep 2018

#JEP The JEP report has vindicated the UCU strike, but where next for the USS dispute? Felicity Callard and others, USS Briefs 52, 19 Sep 2018

#JEP The JEP report, Sam James, Cambridge UCU, 17 Sep 2018

#JEP The JEP report and its implications - some first thoughts, Douglas Chalmers, ucuagenda, 13 Sep 2018

#JEP JEP reports ... what next?, UCU Left, 13 Sep 2018

#JEP Response to Joint Expert Panel report on USS valuation, UUK, 13 Sept 2018

#JEP UCU response to USS Joint Expert Panel report, UCU, 13 Sep 2018

#JEP Report of the Joint Expert Panel, JEP, 13 Sep 2013

#V USS crisis: can the pension system be reformed? Mervyn King and John Kay, THES, 6 Sep 2018 (reprinted here)

August 208

#V Not even wrong: why arguments for closing the USS based on its deficit are so badly flawed, Tim Wilkinson, USS Briefs 48, 23 Aug 2018

July 2018

#VM UUK should now endorse the level of investment risk USS was prepared to accept in February 2017, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 26 Jul 2018

#V USS report and accounts 2018, USS, 25 Jul 2018

#CS Proposed changes to pension contribution rates, UUK, 25 Jul 2018
Response to USS's publication of cost-sharing plans

#V What should our members think about USS?, Bill Galvin, USS, 25 Jul 2018

#CS Cost sharing update: proposed changes to contribution rates, USS, 25 Jul 2018
Set of four documents unveiling USS's cost-sharing plans for implementation from April 2019

#VM Defending pensions: a fight for all our futures, Megan Povey, USS Briefs 37, 25 Jul 2018

#VM The state of USS: some observations, David Miles, USS Briefs 36, 24 Jul 2018

#VM Is USS in deficit? Two bad arguments, and one good one, that the answer is no, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 18 Jul 2018

#TPR New powers help bring balance and confidence to pensions, tPR, 18 Jul 2018

#JEP Panel hears from USS trustee chair, Joanne Segars, 17 Jul 2018 (also reported as JEP 6 - note of the meeting, UUK)

#VM Reckless prudence: how investment sponsor risk-aversion is breaking USS, George Cooper, USS briefs 35, 16 Jul 2018

#CDC Collective defined contributions pensions, Work and Pensions Committee, 16 Jul 2018

#VM Industry debate and USS's phantom deficit, Woon Wong, USS Briefs 34, 12 Jul 2018

#V Staying vigilant: leaked documents reveal new rift between UUK and USS over contribution increases and the future of the pension scheme, Felicity Callard and others, USS Briefs 33, 11 Jul 2018

#VM Understanding 'Test 1': a submission to the USS Joint Expert Panel, Sam Marsh, USS Briefs 32, 10 Jul 2018

#JEP Chair's report: 28 June 2018, Joanne Segars, JEP site, 9 Jul 2018 (also reported as Joint Expert Panel meeting 5, UUK)

#VM USS is a special case: 17 questions for the Joint Expert Panel, Dennis Leech, USS Briefs 28, 5 Jul 2018

#VM Four key issues for the Joint Expert Panel, John Murray, USS Briefs 27, 5 Jul 2018

#JEP Open letter from Academics for Pensions Justice, Academics for Pensions Justice, USS Briefs 26, 5 Jul 2018

#S Fourteen days that shook the universities, Christian Hogsbjerg and others, International Socialism, 2 Jul 2018

June 2018

#UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) report on meeting of 29th June 2018, UCU Left, 30 Jun 2018

#JEP Chair's report: 22 June 2018, Joanne Segars, JEP site, 29 Jun 2018 (also reported as Joint Expert Panel meeting 4, UUK)

#JNC USS Joint Negotiating Committee meeting on 25 June: A brief report, Marion Hersh and Carlo Morelli, UCU Left, 26 Jun 2018

#UCU UCU Left report from NEC 22.5.18, UCU Left, 23 Jun 2018
Reports decisions at NEC of 22 June, including agreement that motions 10 and 11 from UCU Congress will be debated at the recalled UCU Congress

#UCU Brief report from the UCU Higher Education Sector Conference on USS in Manchester [21 June 2018], UCU Left, 23 Jun 2018

#UCU UCU report on Special Higher Education Sector Conference on USS, 21st June 2018, 22 Jun 2018
Gives a list of the motions heard at this Sector Conference and decisions on each motion (see also full list of motions submitted)

#VM Reckless prudence: how to break a pension system, George Cooper, Equitile Investments, c. 23 Jun 2018

#CS An update on cost sharing and what it means for you, USS, 22 Jun 2018

#UCU USS: keep up the pressure, UCU Left, 20 Jun 2018
Discussion of forthcoming UCU Special Higher Education Sector Conference

#N Revealed: how Cambridge attempted to rig the system and steer staff strikes, Noella Chye et al, Varsity, 20 Jun 2018
Reveals minutes of Cambridge Finance Committee meeting of October 2017 where it was said that if USS moved to DC this would facilitate Cambridge's exit from the scheme

#JEP Chair's report: 12 June 2018, Joanne Segars, JEP site, 12 Jun 2018 (also reported as The Joint Expert Panel held its second and third meetings on 6th and 7th June, UUK )

#JEP JEP holds first meeting, Joanne Segars, JEP site, 7 Jun 2018 (also reported as Joint Expert Panel: first meeting, UUK)

#VM How to meet USS's rationale for Test 1 without 'de-risking' the portfolio, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 6 Jun 2018 (reprinted as Beyond 40 years, here be dragons: how to meet USS's rationale for Test 1 without 'de-risking' the portfolio for at least 30 years, USS Briefs 30, 7 Jul 2018)
Proposes a continually renewed 40 year investment horizon for USS

#V Work and Pensions Commitee inquiry on DB pensions, 2nd oral evidence session, 6 Jun 2018, published 11 Jun 2018
'Questions to be covered will include what standards should TPR set for pension scheme funding, and what are appropriate recovery plan lengths to return pension schemes in deficit to being fully funded.'

May 2018

#UCU UCU Congress 2018, 30 May to 1 June 2018
A collection of materials on this congress and on the Sector Conferences on 30 May 2088

#VM Death by discount rate: the fundamental flaws of the accounting approach to pension scheme valuation, Tim Wilkinson and Frank Curtiss, Professional Pensions, 29 May 2018

#JEP Universities UK announces nominations to the USS Joint Expert Panel, Employers Pensions Forum, 24 May 2018

#H Historical contributions, BIll Galvin, USS, 23 May 2018
Letter from Bill Galvin (USS) explain the period of reduced contributions by employers  between 1997 and 2009

#JEP UCU announces nominations to USS Joint Expert Panel, UCU, 21 May 2018

#JEP UCU and UUK announce appointment of Chair for USS Joint Expert Panel, UCU, 18 May 2018 (see also simultaneous UUK announcement)

#UCU Timetable and motions for UCU congress 2018, UCU, 15 May 2018

#JEP Email from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 9 May 2018
Calls for nominations for the JEP

#JEP How expert? How transparent? Thoughts on the JEP terms of reference and interim arrangements for USS, Cambridge UCU, 5 May 2018
Discusses the outcomes of the JNC and HEC meetings of 27 April

#TPR FCA / TPR joint strategy, tPR, 4 May 2018 (videos)
Set of 5 videos

#H Scheme actuary declared 14% employer contribution rate insufficient to cover future service, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 4 May 2018
Shows that in 1999 the USS actuary estimated that an employer contribution rate of 16.3% was required to cover the cost of future service benefits, however it was agreed to keep employer contributions at 14% and to use the 'surplus' in the main fund to make up the remainder

#CS Stakeholders withdraw proposed changes to USS benefits, USS, 3 May 2018
Reports that JNC have withdrawn 23 Jan decision, USS will initiate process for cost sharing to be implemented 1 Apr 2019, JEP will work in parallel with this and its recommendations could be implemented later

#JEP Email from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 3 May 2018
Reports on plans for formation of JEP

#CS Stakeholders withdraw proposed changes to USS benefits, USS, 3 May 2018
Confirms that at JNC meeting of 2 April the decision of 23 January was rescinded, and announces cost sharing will be implemented from April 2018

#JEP The USS Joint Expert Panel and more, Adam Ozanne, 2 May 2018
Summary of the HEC meeting on 27 April

#V Work and Pensions Commitee inquiry on DB pensions, 1st oral evidence session

April 2018

#VM Summary of the scheme actuary's valuation report for the purpose of rule 76.1, late Apr 2018
Summary of the report to USS by their actuaries, which was submitted to them in December 2017

#O UCU National Executive Committee must amend terms of USS Joint Expert Panel, change.org, 30 Apr 2018
Calls for electoral input, accountability, transparency in JEP

#JEP The Joint Expert Panel will fail unless it is both radical and transparent, Dennis Leech, 30 Apr 2018
Argues that the JEP needs to 'address fundamental issues and ask basic questions' and sets out an agenda for it to do so

#JEP Is this the JEP you voted for? Chris Grocott, Jo Grady, Felicity Callard and Stan Papoulias, USSbriefs, 30 Apr 2018
Criticises the selection process and terms of reference of the JEP

#JEP The Joint Expert Panel is being set up to fail. Here's what you can do, Lee Jones, Medium, 30 Apr 2018
Criticises the selection process and terms of reference of the JEP

#JEP Email from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 30 Apr 2018
Announces terms of reference of JEP, invites members to self-nominate for places

#JEP Terms of reference for the JEP, UCU, 30 Apr 2018

#CS Papers for the JNC meeting of 27 Apr 2018, published 29 Apr 2018
The paper from USS proposes the imposition of cost sharing under rule 76 from 1 Apr 2019 while the JEP runs in parallel and its recommendations are possibly implemented from 1 Apr 2020

#JEP What's next for USS? Possible outcomes of the April 27 JNC, Cambridge UCU, 27 Apr 2018
Summarises points from papers for the JNC meeting of 27 April, points to possible outcomes

#JEP Report from HEC meeting 27 April 2018, Rachel Cohen, City University of London UCU, 28 Apr 2018
Summarises the HEC meeting of 27 April, in more detail

#JEP HEC: USS strikes have transformed our union; it's not 'business as usual', UCU Left, 27 Apr 2018
Briefly summarises the HEC meeting of 27 April

#JEP Paper HEC /1112 for the HEC meeting of 27 Apr 2018, published in part 28 Apr 2018, in full 29 Apr 2018 (partial publication here)
Proposes the selection process and terms of reference for the JEP

#CS USS - advice to JNC on trustee letter 17 April 2018, dated 25 Apr 2018, published 29 Apr 2018
Letter of legal advice to chair of JNC on revoking its decision of 23 January and possibilities of mitigating or preventing cost sharing using rule 76.5 or 79.7

#V USS valuation - FAQs for USS members, UUK, 24 Apr 2018

#UCU USS bosses try to undermine UCU agreement with employers - build the campaign and prepare to strike, UCU Left, 24 Apr 2018

#S Personal reflections on the great university strike of 2018, Philip Cunliffe, 19 Apr 2018
Claims that the strike showed that managers of the 'neoliberal university' no longer have any real authority over their staff

#TPR Regulating between the lines: the pensions dispute in UK universities, Paul Daly, Administrative Law Matters, 18 Apr 2018
Comments on the reasons for tPR's opacity, argues that because it does not take enforcement decisions but only threatens them its actions are not open to judicial review

#VM Information request to USS trustees, Fighting for Pensions Justice, 18 Apr 2018
Formal request for USS data

#JEP Email from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 18 Apr 2018

#CS Email from Bill Galvin to employers, dated 18 Apr 2018 (published in part 19 Apr 2018, in full 22 Apr 2018)
States that USS will take JNC's decision of 23 January to be void, unless JNC informs them otherwise before the end of this month, and that cost sharing under rule 76 is then the default option, to be implemented 1 April 2019

#H Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), Djuna Thurley, House of Commons Briefing Paper, 16 Apr 2018
Summarises the dispute to date

#UCU After the ballot - where are we now with our USS dispute? UCUagenda, 16 Apr 2018

#UCU What next for UCU in the USS pensions dispute? Lee Jones, Medium, 15 Apr 2018
Argues for a renewal of UCU at all levels

#UCU Why UCU general Secretary Sally Hunt should resign, Lee Jones, Medium, 14 Apr 2018
Lists Sally Hunt's failings back to 2006, calls for her resignation

#JEP How to constitute a joint expert panel, Warren Pearce, USS Briefs 19, 13 Apr 2018

#JEP Email from Alistair Jarvis to employers, dated 13 Apr 2018 (published, 17 Apr 2018)
Says that JEP will have to report in time for changes to be implemented in April 2019 'if we are to avoid the imposition of substantial increased costs on employers and scheme members' (probably a reference to USS rule 74.6)

#JEP Ballot result on joint expert panel, UUK press release, 13 Apr 2018
Says 'current pension benefits are guaranteed until at least 1 April 2019, so the panel will need to conclude its work in time to put in place a sustainable way forward for USS from that date'

#JEP UCU members vote in record numbers to accept proposals in pensions dispute, UCU press release, 13 Apr 2018
Announces result of e-ballot: 64% yes, 36% no, 65% turnout.

#JEP Members vote to accept employers' latest offer, UCU, 13 Apr 2018
Gives exact numbers voting for and against in e-ballot

#JEP Email from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 13 Apr 2018
Announces result of the e-ballot

#JEP Pressing ‘pause’ on strike action: historical context for the Joint Expert Panel, Jack Saunders, USSbriefs, 12 Apr 2018
Argues that pausing strike action while an independent committee investigates the issues has not led to good outcomes for workers in the past

#JEP Email 4 from Sally Hunt to UCU members who had not yet voted in ballot, 12 Apr 2018
Includes Lesley McGorrigan 'Revise and submit' proposal of 11 April

#UCU Open letter to UCU leadership from the branch, Senate House UCU, 12 Apr 2018
Criticises the UCU leadership for its handling of the ballot on the UUK proposal of 23 March

#V Protecting Defined Benefit: managers, trustees, regulators, and the possibility of a pension scheme that works for us, John Murray, USSbriefs, Medium, 11 Apr 2018
Focuses especially on the conservative investment strategy of USS

#TPR The Office for Students responds to University and College Union pensions ballot, Office for Students, 11 Apr 2018
Warns HE providers that if there is further industrial action the OfS is prepared to use its 'powers under the 1992 Higher Education Act to protect quality and standards'

#VM A technical overview of the 2017 valuation, USS, 11 Apr 2018 (video)

#JEP A letter to Sally, Lesley McGorrigan, UCU Left, 11 Apr 2018
Asks Sally Hunt to circulate an argument for rejecting the UUK proposal, adds a detailed 'Revise and resubmit' proposal

#JEP Email 3 from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 11 Apr 2018
Gives three reasons in favour of voting to accept the UUK proposal of 23rd March

#TPR Summary of the key messages from the 2018 annual funding statement, tPR, c. 9 Apr 2018

#TPR Annual funding statement for defined benefit schemes, tPR, 9 Apr 2018
See especially section on 'Late valuations'

#JEP Email 2 from Sally Hunt to UCU members, 6th April 2018
Answers six questions about the ballot. Posted as UCU statement, 9 Apr 2018

#JEP Why trust should not be the issue in the ballot, Tom Pike, Medium, 8 Apr 2018

#V The 2017 valuation: questions and answers, USS, updated 6 Apr 2018

#JEP Is an employer commitment to ‘no detriment’ feasible in the USS dispute?, Sean Wallis, Convention for Higher Education, 6 Apr 2018
Argues that a commitment to no detriment for the current valuation round is compatible with appointing a JEP

#VM Is there really a USS deficit?, Dennis Leech, USSbriefs, Medium, 5 Apr 2018
Critique of the methodology of USS valuation

#JEP The USS dispute - some facts you may need before voting, Adam Ozanne and Alex Grunz, UCUagenda, 4 Apr 2018
Sections 7 and 8 summarise the UUK proposal and argue for accepting it

#JEP Consultative ballot on UUK proposal now open, Sally Hunt, UCU, 4 Apr 2018
Announces opening of ballot on UUK proposal, recommends accepting it, adds link to Alistair Jarvis letter of 28 March

#JEP UCU strikes: the ballot, what it means, and where we go from here, Jeanette Findlay, TwitLonger, 3 Apr 2018
Argues for accepting the UUK proposal of 23 March, addresses a number of the arguments against acceptance

March 2018

#JEP Deal or no deal?, Steven Parfitt, Jacobin, 31 Mar 2018
Weighs up arguments for accepting or rejecting the UUK proposal of 23 March, drawing parallels with the West Virginia teachers' strike

#S Striking, social media, and building a better university, Chris Bertram, Crooked Timber of Humanity, 31 Mar 2018
Argues that the strike has shown that 'a different kind of university is possible' and gives a basis for contesting metric-chasing, performance targets and the 'consequent quotidian degradation of academic life'

#UCU A mess, but not a stitch-up: Wednesday's national UCU branch meeting, Sam James, Cambridge UCU, 31 Mar 2018
Summarises the branch delegates meeting on 28 March, supports the idea of a JEP but argues that on current knowledge of the UUK proposal UCU members should not accept it

#JEP Q&A on the proposal from UUK going out to ballot to UCU members, Michael Otsuka, Medium 30 Mar 2018
Argues for a yes vote, on the grounds that the UUK offer is indication of a genuine change of heart by UUK

#UCU UCU's rush to e-ballot reflects the weakness of union democracy, Lee Jones, Medium, 29 Mar 2018
Criticises in detail the processes of the UCU meetings of 28 March leading to the decision to ballot members on the UUK proposal of 23 March

#JEP Vice-chancellor welcomes latest proposal to resolve USS dispute, Stephen Toope, Cambridge University, 29 Mar 2018
Welcomes the idea of a JEP, suggests that the ACAS agreement of 12 Mar should be the minimum position, subject to improvement dependent on JEP's recommendations, and suggests an 'interim valuation' followed by a new settlement based on the JEP's recommendations that is introduced mid-valuation round

#JEP UCU members need to know what UUK will choose if they accept the proposal, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 29 Mar 2018
Assumes that the results of the JEP cannot be applied to the 2017 valuation, then argues that whether UCU members should vote to accept the UUK proposal depends on what UUK intends to impose for the current valuation round

#UCU A reflection on today's UCU meetings [28 March 2018], Rachel Cohen, 29 Mar 2018
A summary of the branch delegates meeting and HEC meeting on 28 March from a member who was present at both

#VM The 2017 actuarial valuation, Guy Coughlan and Ali Tayyebi, USS, 28 Mar 2018 (video)

#JEP Now vote No and continue the fight, Carlo Morelli and Sean Wallis, UCL Left, 28 Mar 2018
Reports HEC decision to put UUK proposal of 23 March to a ballot of union members, calls for a No vote to this ballot

#JEP USS update, UUK press release, 28 Mar 2018
Reports UCU's decision to ballot members on UUK proposal of 23 March, says that employers' support for the proposal is 'conditional on the suspension of industrial action'

#JEP UCU members to be consulted over the latest pension dispute proposals, UCU press release, 28 Mar 2018
Reports that after gaining clarification that 'the defined benefit element of the scheme would be maintained while a joint-expert panel considers the valuation of the USS fund' the HEC has voted to ballot the membership on the UUK proposal of 23 March as it stands

#JEP Letter from Alistair Jarvis to Sally Hunt, Twitter, 28 Mar 2018
Distributed at UCU delegates meeting on 28 March, published in UCU press release of 4th April, says that UUK does not intend to return to the January decision to end DB, says UUK is committed to 'maintaining a meaningful defined benefit pension offer at this valuation'.

#JEP Transcript of UCU branch delegates meeting of 28 March 2018, UCL UCU website, 28 Mar 2018

#JEP Comparing 12 March proposal v 22 March proposal, UCL UCU, 27 Mar 2018
Compares the wording of the UUK proposal of 23 March concerning the JEP with that of the ACAS proposal of 12 March

#JEP UCU motions passed in response to pension proposal two, Brodie Waddell, 26-27 Mar 2018
Collects texts of motions passed at UCU branch meetings on 26-27 March in response to UUK proposal of 23 March

#JEP Deal or no deal, William Pooley, 27 Mar 2018
Argues that branches should call for UCU to ballot members on the UUK proposal of 23 March rather than to negotiate further on its wording

#JEP Latest UUK proposal: your questions answered, UCU, 26 Mar 2018
Gives the text of Sally Hunt's email to members answering questions on the UUK proposal of 23 March and UCU's procedure in response to it

#JEP #NoDetriment: keep the action on until we get a clear settlement, UCU Left, 25 Mar 2018
Calls on UCU to negotiate changes to the proposal, specifically the inclusion of a 'no detriment' clause for the current valuation round, and for UCU members not to be balloted until the proposal is agreed by USS trustees and tPR

#JEP University strikes: employers’ retreat needs to be nailed down, Des Freedman, Counterfire, 25 Mar 2018
Says UCU needs to demand that the proposal of 23 March be revised to assert a commitment to pensions 'essentially equal to existing benefits', to a deadline for a new valuation be set before the start of 2019, and for there to be no victimisations or demands to reschedule classes

#JEP How good is the new UUK proposal?, Sam James, Cambridge UCU, 24 Mar 2018
Says that UCU needs a clear commitment from tPR that it will accept an extension to the deadline for the 2017 evaluation, and from USS that the JEP's conclusions will be allowed to replace the current valuation

#VM Analysis of the new deal - why the devil is in the details, EM_HealthPsych's Blog, 24 Mar 2018
Mouthpiece for #strikeDad, who argues that the JEP must be able to consider using actual rates of return on investments rather than government bond yields to determine the discount rate

#VM Why the UCU should not leave the USS valuation to the proposed panel of selected experts, Dennis Leech, 24 Mar 2018
Argues that the existing risk-based calculation of deficits should be replaced by an assessment of expected cash flows, for which all that is needed is for USS to provide its figures

#H Performance of the USS retirement income builder or defined benefit fund, USS, updated 24 Mar 2018
Shows the DB fund has nearly tripled in value 2009-2017

#JEP Thoughts on the UUK proposal of 23 March 2018, Lee Jones, Medium, 24 Mar 2018
Gives a detailed point-by-point commentary on the proposal of 23 March

#JEP Why I now support the latest USS pension proposal, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 24 Mar 2018
Says he has been informed that 'there are now many more points of common understanding between the employer and the union than there were a few weeks ago', argues that they are now 'united behind the aim of finding a way to sustain a guaranteed pension broadly comparable with current provision', and supports the proposal for that reason

#JEP Some reservations regarding the proposed joint panel of experts, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 24 Mar 2018
Argues that the JEP is likely to end up deadlocked between UUK-nominated and UCU-nominated experts

#UCU USS: Now we’re talking! Time to fight for #NoDetriment, Sean Wallis, UCU, 23 Mar 2018
Argues that the commitment in the proposal of 23 March to 'a guaranteed pension broadly comparable with the current arrangements' should be revised to 'a guaranteed pension whereby employees neither pay more nor receive less than the current arrangements'

#JEP New proposal sent to UCU members in USS pension dispute, UCU, 23 Mar 2018
Second press release announcing UUK offer

#JEP Strong member action leads to new offer, UCU, 23 Mar 2018
First press release announcing UUK offer

#JEP Joint expert panel proposed, UUK, 23 Mar 2018
Proposes a jointly appointed expert panel to review the scheme's valuation, together with commitment to recommend measures that 'provide a guaranteed pension broadly comparable with current arrangements'

#JEP Statement from Fellows of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, 23 Mar 2018
Criticises UUK's consultation methods, calls for an independent panel to scrutinise the methodology used to calculate the deficit, and says that in the meantime we should return to the status quo, as we cannot pass judgement on 'proposals that are based on figures that are still subject to dispute'

#V Letter to staff from Minouche Shafik (Director of LSE), 23 Mar 2018
Calls on UUK to 'work with UCU' to revert to the September valuation

#UCU University members asked to strike to defend USS pension scheme, Unison, 23 Mar 2018
Announces that members of UNISON will be balloted in April for strike action over the USS moved to defined benefits following a 91% rejection of the change in an internal consultation

#JEP Open letter to UUK and UCU, Edward Byrne (Principal of Kings College London), 22 Mar 2018
Proposes terms of references for a jointly-agreed review panel and suggests that meanwhile tPR should extend the current consultation period

#VM USS Investment's Fundamental Building Blocks (FBB) approach to expected returns, Roger Gray and Mirko Cardinale, USS, 22 Mar 2018
Outlines the USS's approach to predicting long run returns on its assets portfolio, based on breaking the portfolio down into different types of asset

#VM Why some actuaries are getting pension schemes wrong, Dennis Leech, 21 Mar 2018
Argues that the current method of assessing pension schemes by setting the present market value of their total assets (mark-to-market accounting) against their future liabilities leads to exaggerated calculations of risk and so to artificial deficits

#V Remarks on a topic of concern to the university: the Universities Superannuation Scheme, Cambridge University Reporter, 20 Mar 2018
Set of written statements from senior members of Cambridge faculty on the USS crisis

#TPR Defined benefit pension schemes, Djuna Thurley and Federico Mor, House of Commons Briefing Paper, 20 Mar 2018
Summarises the white paper of 19 March

#TPR Protecting defined benefit pension schemes, DWP white paper, 19 Mar 2018

#TPR DWP plans to give pension regulator new powers to safeguard DB pensions, FTSE Global Markets, 19 Mar 2018
Summarises new DWP White Paper 'Protecting Defined Benefit Schemes, focuses on plans to give the Pensions Regulator new powers to prevent employers putting defined benefit pension schemes at risk

#UCU No deficit = no change. No to CPI erosion. Defend the 'status quo' in USS, 19 Mar 2018
Calls for USS to seek government guarantees and rejects a pension cut

#JEP Confidence and credibility, UCU press release, 19 Mar 2018
Response to UUK press release of 18 Mar, says that an expert panel to review the valuation must be jointly agreed by UUK and UCU, and that meanwhile 'the employers need to take the current pension cuts off the table'

#V Did Cambridge's colleges help cause the staff pensions crisis? Noella Chye and Catherine Lally, Varsity, 19 March 2018
Analyses the role of Oxford and Cambridge college bursars in the shift from the September to the November valuation

#E Letter to UUK from Changing University Cultures Collective, 19 Mar 2018
Withdraws from association with UUK because of its recent actions

#V Response from Churchill College to Jarvis letter, 19 Mar 2018

#V Letter from Alistair Jarvis (UUK) to Athene Donald (Churchill College Cambridge), 18 Mar 2018
Says that UUK's response to the September 2017 USS valuation was informed by 'a number of sources', not just by the survey of USS employers that month

#JEP Confidence and credibility, UCU, 19 Mar 2018
Second UCU response to UUK press release of 18 March

#JEP UCU responds to UUK valuation review, UCU, 18 Mar 2018'
First UCU response to UUK press release of 18 March

#JEP Panel of independent experts to review processes for arriving at pension deficit, UUK press release, 18 Mar 2018
Announces that UUK will unilaterally set up a panel to review the methodology and assumptions of the current USS valuation, to report back 'as soon as possible'

#JEP Statement from the governing body of Queens College Oxford, 18 Mar 2018
Argues that UUK should not be contemplating any substantial changes to the USS scheme when the calculation of its deficit is 'the subject of legitimate enquiry and controversy'

#JEP Response to Jarvis article, Michael Otsuka, Twitter thread, 18 Mar 2018

#JEP Union's pension demands will cost £1bn a year, Alistair Jarvis, UUK, Sunday Times, 18 Mar 2018 (or copy on UUK site titled 'USS pensions update')

#E Letter to Alistair Jarvis (UUK) from heads of 29 subject associations and learned societies in the Arts and Humanities, 18 Mar 2018
Points out that the proposed changes to the USS scheme are 'inherently in contradiction with Athena SWAN and Race Equality Charter principles'

#V Addressing the facts of the USS valuation, Bill Galvin, USS, 16 Mar 2018
Reaffirms the validity of the current USS valuation

#V Six things you should know about the 2017 valuation, USS, 16 Mar 2018
Says 'the estimated cost of funding future defined benefits is the most material issue arising out of the valuation'

#V Open letter from the governing body of Churchill College Cambridge to UUK, 16 Mar 2018 Rebukes UUK for its manner of consultation and the Pensions Regulator for its lack of transparency, calls for a 'speedy interim solution' while the valuation of USS is revisited

#VM Reply to Sally Hunt, Dennis Leech, 16 Mar 2018
Argues that UCU should not be asking for increased contributions from employers or employees but should be rejecting the valuation methodology which produces the 'so-called deficit'

#VM Rising interest rates finally explode the myth of your pension fund deficit, The City Grump, Real Business, 15 Mar 2018
Points out that using government bond yields as the discount rate for a pension fund leads to deficit figures that vary wildly as interests rates go up or down

#VM Why pensions are worth striking to protect, Sally Hunt, FT Adviser, 15 Mar 2018
Calls for employers to increase their contributions and take on a 'very small increase in risk' in order to retain a pension scheme at the level 'required by UCU members'
See also 'Reply to Sally Hunt' by Dennis Leech above

#V Statement on the pensions dispute from the Fellows of Kings College Cambridge, 15 Mar 2018
Calls for 'the greatest possible transparency regarding valuation methodologies' and supports the September valuation

#S Notes on the UCU strike, Ed Rooksby, Brave New Europe, 15 Mar 2018
Comments on the wider political implications if the strike is successful

#V Universities UK planning more talks with UCU to end pensions dispute, UUK press release,14 Mar 2018
Accepts that there are 'concerns about how the scheme has been valued' and says UUK would like to meet with UCU as soon as possible to 'better understand the concerns raised by their branches'

#E Newnham Principal writes to Chief Executive of UUK to urge him to take action in USS pensions dispute, 13 Mar 2018
Points out that defined contribution schemes may proportionately disadvantage women, expresses concern over variations in the valuation of USS, criticises UUK for its 'opaque' consultative process

#VM Shift the regulatory balance back to a sensible view of real-world pension costs, Frank Curtiss and Tim Wilkinson, FT, 13 Mar 2018 (or copy here)
Asserts that using government bond yields to calculate the discount rate for a pension fund, and the statutory requirement to eliminate deficits quickly, are making pensions schemes artificially appear unaffordable, and that schemes should be assessed instead on a cash flow basis

#E Open letter to Equality Challenge Unit and all UK university leaders, 14 Mar 2018
Asserts that the proposed changes to the USS scheme are 'directly in conflict with the Athena SWAN Charter and Race Equality Charter', 2000 signatories

#E Women to be hardest hit by proposed university pension scheme changes, Martin Heneghan, Jo Grady and Liam Foster, UCU Sheffield, 14 Mar 2018

#TPR USS strike: regulator is to blame for pensions crisis, David Bailey and John Clancy, THE 13 Mar 2018
Argues that in the light of QE-induced gilt yield falls tPR should have advised years ago that funds should not use these as a basis for discount rates

#JNC University strikes remain on as UCU rejects proposals, UCU press release, 13 Mar 2018

#JNC Table comparing UCU-UUK agreement with earlier proposals, Andrew Chitty, 13 Mar 2018

#JNC Open letter rejecting the UCU/UUK agreement at ACAS, 12 Mar 2018 10,000 signatories

#JNC UCU-UUK agreement under auspices of ACAS, 12 Mar 2018
Assumes the November valuation, keeps defined benefits for 3 years, cuts accrual rate to 1/85, defined benefit limit to £42000, increases employee contributions by 0.7%, employer contributions by 1.3%

#VM USS strike: social media has collapsed the case for pension cuts, Sherrill Stroschein, THE, 12 Mar 2018

#V Letter from Athene Donald (Churchill College Cambridge) to Alistair Jarvis (UUK), 8 Mar 2018 Requests transparency on how responses to the Sep 2017 UUK survey of employers were weighted (see above for response by Jarvis on 18 Mar)

#O USS strike: long-term promise on employer contributions may break pensions impasse, Jon Forster et al, THE, 5 Mar 2018
Calls on employers to make a 20-year commitment to maintain pension contributions at 18% of salary

#H Thread on the shift to from defined benefit to defined contribution in UUK documents from 2007 to 2017, Felicity Callard, Twitter, 5 Mar 2018

#VM Mathematical operations with the normal distribution, Sean Wallis, 4 Mar 2018
Argues with mathematical tools that the USS deficit is 'obviously an artefact of the valuation method'

#VM USS is the tip of the iceberg: our pensions system is a hot mess, Christine Berry, Open Democracy, 1 Mar 2018

#V 'Universities accept a small amount of increased risk', Michael Otsuka, Medium, 1 Mar 2018 Argues in favour of returning to the September valuation, as proposed by UCU on 27 Feb

February 2018

#V USS valuation: questions and answers, UUK, Feb 2018

#H Parliamentary briefing: Universities Superannuation Scheme, UUK, Feb 2018

#JNC UCU proposal, 27 Feb 2018
Calls for return to September valuation, cuts accrual rate to 1/80, increases employer contributions from 18% to 20.7% and employee contributions by from 8% to 9.4%

#JNC Open letter from UUK to USS scheme members over pension dispute, 22 Feb 2018

#VM Discussing deficits, Guy Coughlan, USS, 21 Feb 2018

#H Open letter from Imperial College London UCU to Provost of ICL, sent 20 Feb 2018, published 22 Feb 2018
Points to the reduction of employer contributions from 18.55% to 14% from 1997 to 2009

#H Universities Superannuation Scheme, Djuna Thurley, House of Commons Briefing Paper, 20 Feb 2018
History of valuations since 2011

#V Oxford's and Cambridge's role in the demise of USS, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 12 Feb 2018
Argues that Oxford and Cambridge played a major role in the move from the September to the November valuation, and that they were motivated by an underlying wish to exit the defined contribution scheme

#H Made in Westminster; the source of the USS 'crisis' - and the solution, Sean Wallis, Leicester UCU, 9 Feb 2018
Sees the source of the present USS 'crisis' in the 2004 Pensions Act, quantitative easing, and the 'competitionising' of the HE sector since 2010, calls for full nationalisation of the USS scheme

#JNC Can strikes now prevent the imposition of detrimental changes on USS?, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 5 Feb 2018

January 2018

#JNC Proposed changes to future USS benefits, USS, 23 Jan 2018
Announces decision of JNC that day

#JNC Revised UUK proposal to the JNC, 23 Jan 2018
Proposal to move to a DC scheme any future contributions; employer contribution would remain at 18% but only 13.25% would go into members' DC funds, with most of the remainder going to fund the deficit in the DB scheme; employee contribution would be 8% with option to reduce to 4%; these were the proposals adopted by the JNC after the chair's casting vote

#V Don't object to the high cost of your own making, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 15 Jan 2018

#V The incoherence of UUK's attitude towards risk, Michael Otsuka, Medium, 2 Jan 2018

December 2017

#CS Update on the 2017 valuation funding review, USS, 21 Dec 2017
Reports that on 19 December the USS board triggered the process for rule 76.4 cost sharing if JNC makes no decision by 23 January

#V 2017 valuation funding review: the challenges, Bill Galvin, USS, 15 Dec 2017
Summarises the two main reasons why things are worse in 2017 than 2014 - lower rates of return and higher uncertainty

#VM 31 March 2017 actuarial valuation, USS, dated 8 Dec 2017, published later
The 'November valuation'. Reports that UUK has indicated that employers want to reduce the risk of having to pay higher contributions later, that USS has decided to shift investments towards bonds now rather than in 10 years time, and that consequently the funding deficit is now £7.5bn, requiring an 11.4% increase in contributions.

#CS Email from Alistair Jarvis to VCs, 1 Dec 2017
Warns that USS has made it clear that if the JNC does not reach agreement on 18 December it will begin the formal process under rule 76.4 culminating in cost sharing

November 2017

#VM USS pension changes would be a disaster for universities, but they are preventable, Dennis Leech, THE, 21 Nov 2017 (or see copy on Dennis Leech's blog)

#JNC Employers propose reforms to ensure USS pension scheme remains sustainable and attractive to members, UUK, 17 Nov 2017
Summarises UUK proposal to replace defined benefit by defined contribution for all new contributions

#VM Response to First Actuarial report on Technical Provisions consultation, Bill Galvin, USS, dated 17 Nov 2017, published later
Responds to First Actuarial report of 15 September 2017, argues that its assumptions are too optimistic

#VM UUK responds to USS consultation on funding proposals, USS, 14 Nov 2017
Summarises the 'November valuation'

#VM Update and comments regarding the USS 2017 Actuarial Valuation of Sept. 1 2017, Working party on pension valuation, ICL, 10 Nov 2017

September 2017

#VM Protecting pensions, Guy Coughlan, USS, 29 Sep 2017
Briefly summarises 'Test 1'

#VM Investment challenges: the facts, Roger Gray, USS, 22 Sep 2017
Focuses on the progressive fall in long-dated index-linked gilt yields since 2014 as a sign of lower expected rates of return

#VM Examining the numbers on pension valuations, David Spiegelhalter and others, FT, 19 Sep 2017 (see also copy on Cambridge UCU website)
Letter signed by 50 academics, including the President of the Royal Statistical Society, questioning several central assumptions behind the USS's September valuation

#VM Would a shift from bonds to growth assets keep the USS afloat?, Michael Otsuka, Wonkhe, 17 Sep 2017
Compares the USS valuation of 1 September and First Actuarial valuation of 15 September

#VM Report for UCU: progressing the valuation of the USS, HilarySalt and Derek Benstead, First Actuarial, 15 Sep 2017

#V Letter from Geoff Cruickshank (tPR) to David Eastwood (USS), 15 Sep 2017, published 5 May 2018
Response to the 'September valuation', states that tPR does not thinks the covenant is as strong as USS does, suggests that USS should be de-risking more rapidly

#VM Consultation with UUK commences,USS, 1 Sep 2017
Announces the 'September valuation' and start of consultation with employers

#VM 2017 actuarial evaluation, USS, 1 Sep 2017
The 'September valuation'

August 2017

#DC Suitability and sustainability: pensions in the higher education sector, Employers Pension Forum, Aug 2017
Advocates a shift from DB to DC schemes in British universities

#VM How decisions are made on future pensions for USS. Bill Galvin, 24 Aug 2017

July 2017

#V USS Report and Accounts (scheme), USS, 25 Jul 2017
Provisionally reports a deficit on 1 March 2017 of £12.6bn

June 2017

#TPR Talk at Institutional Investor: UK and Ireland summit DB conference, Lesley Titcomb, 13 Jun 2017
Mentions that a 'gilts plus' discount rate for valuations is not a regulatory requirement

February 2017

#TPR Security and sustainability in defined benefit pension schemes, DWP green paper, 20 Feb 2017

#VM Methodology and inputs for the 2017 valuation: initial assessment, USS, 17 Feb 2017
The 'February valuation'

2016

#VM Alarming deterioration in USS funding is based on an incoherent valuation methodology, Michael Otsuka, 21 Dec 2016
Argues that USS has incoherently switched from a 'best estimate minus' to a 'gilts plus' basis for setting the discount rate between valuations, advocates reverting to the former

#VM 'Flaws' in valuations of pension fund obligations, Josephine Cumbo, FT, 12 Dec 2016 (or see copy here)
Quotes Michael O'Higgins, chair of tPR 2011-14, saying that DB pension fund liabilities should be assessed using a discount rate based on expected yield of fund's actual assets, not expected gilts yield

#VM First Actuarial's response to USS's approach to self-sufficiency, Michael Otsuka, 11 Dec 2016
Explains USS's Test 1, that it must be possible to make the scheme 'self-sufficient', i.e. capable of  covering future service costs given a discount rate close to the yield on government bonds, by raising employer contributions to no more than 25%, and sees the First Actuarial report of 6 December 2016 as arguing that a discount rate based on historical equity yields should be used instead

#VM Report to UCU: input to the valuation as at 31 March 2017 of the USS', Hilary Salt and Derek Benstead, First Actuarial, 6 Dec 2016

#VM Covering letter to employers and UCU reps on response to the Valuation Discussion Forum, Jimmy Donaghey and Allan Spencer, 28 Nov 2016

#VM Proposed approach to the methodology for the 2017 actuarial valuation, USS, 22 Nov 2016
This is the USS's response to the Valuation Discussion Forum held mid-2016

#V 2017 valuation timetable, USS, Nov 2016, published 5 May 2018

#TPR Written evidence from Association of Pension Lawyers to House of Common Work and Pensions Committee, Rosalind Connor, Sep 2016
See section B on DB pensions regulated by tPR

#V Covenant review for the 2017 valuation, USS, 29 Sep 2016

#VM Our mad approach to pension fund deficits, Anthony Hilton, Evening Standard, 14 Sep 2016

#VM Pensions deficits: mark-to-market valuation is the elephant in the room, Dennis Leech, Jul 2016Argues that along with other factors the use by pensions trustees of the yield of government bonds, which is very low, to calculate discount rates has led to attributing large artificial deficits to defined benefit schemes, and that the regulations need to be changed so that the solvency of pension schemes is assessed, as it previously was, by expected cash future flows

2015

#VM Union comments on the USS consultation, Sam Marsh, Sheffield UCU/Unite/Unison, 17 May 2015

#DC DC vs DB - briefing for universities, John Coulthard and Sophia Singleton, Aon Hewitt, 17 Jun 2015
Presentation given to a UCEA event 'Pensions in 2015 and beyond - a shifting landscape' (the page for this event on the UCEA website has been emptied but there is a Google cache here - I have requested that the content of the page be restored)

2014

#VM Report to the USS paper: 2014 actual valuation, First Actuarial, Nov 2014

#VM Letter to members of the USS Trustee Board, Jane Hutton and others, 21 Nov 2014
Criticises the USS's valuation methodology in detail

#VM Proposed changes to USS: myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings, Employers Pension Forum, 9 Oct 2014 (see also updated version, 11 Nov 2014)

#VM False assumptions of the USS, Saul Jacka et al, THE, Oct 2014 (paywall)

#VM 2014 actuarial valuation, USS, Oct 2014

Pre-2014

#VM Being actuarial with the truth: a story of economic confusion over defined benefit pension schemes, Simon Carne, 31 Aug 2004
Long paper arguing among other things that valuation should be based on cash flow projections


Method

My aim is to post links to all important documents relevant to the origins and course of the 2818 USS strikes, from whatever source, and to include a 2-3 line summary of what I think are the most significant points of each document. I avoid evaluative language in my summaries but of course I have to use my own judgement in deciding which documents are important and which are their most significant points. In deciding whether to link to a 'comment' document, i.e. one that advocates a particular course of action, I try to focus on how well-informed and well-reasoned it seems to be rather than its standpoint. In general I avoid linking to very short blog posts and Twitter threads.

Acronyms

DB = Defined Benefit
DC = Defined Contribution
DWP = Department of Work and Pensions
HEC = Higher Education Committee of UCU
JEP = Joint Expert Panel
NEC = National Executive Committee of UCU
tPR = the Pensions Regulator

Many thanks to all who have sent suggestions.
Andrew Chitty a.e.chitty@sussex.ac.uk