Statement of the 14th meeting of the Tripartite Group

20 Oct 2020

The statement following the 14th meeting between the University and College Union (UCU), Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) in relation to the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel's (JEP) second report has been published.

The statement from chair of the JEP Joanne Segars, which can also be found on the JEP website, is as follows:

The Tripartite Group (TG) discussion focused on improving the JNC’s effectiveness and re-building trust and confidence. The stakeholders then met to discuss meeting the needs of members and developing the Strategic Discussion Forum.

The Tripartite Group noted that discussions were continuing within the JNC Effectiveness group (JNCEG) aimed at identifying “quick wins” to improve the operation of the JNC. It was likely that these would cover using pre-meetings with the chair and between the stakeholders to ensure time could be used more efficiently, training for JNC members, and an acceptance that JNC members could have different perspectives on an issue. The TG welcomed the work that had been undertaken to date and was keen to see it move forward. It was noted that the second phase of the JNCEG’s work was intended to kick off in the early autumn and that the JNCEG would draft terms of reference for this exercise shortly. The TG agreed it would be important to focus on the purpose and outcome of this exercise, namely looking at the issues that impede the effectiveness of the JNC (e.g. role and remit) and measures to address them.

The TG started a discussion on how to rebuild trust and confidence. An earlier exercise had identified a number of issues that had undermined trust and confidence. These had been grouped into three themes: disclosure of information and transparency and recognition of confidentiality; improved dialogue, visibility and communications; recognition of respective roles and duties (information flow and talking about the big issues). The TG began a discussion on the first of these issues.

It was agreed that a large amount of data, especially relating to the valuation, was confidential and that there was a need to protect and respect that confidentiality. It was also recognised, and welcomed, that compared to other schemes, USS provides a significant amount of information to members and stakeholders. While recognizing that people may reach different decisions, the TG discussed the need for the Trustee to more clearly articulate how decisions are reached based on the data and evidence available. This would help build understanding of the basis for decisions. In this regard, it was suggested that it would also be helpful to set out why one option was favoured over another. The TG also discussed the specific nature of the USS membership which is based on a culture of constructive, academic challenge using independent analysis and access to data provided without narrative. It was acknowledged that requests for large volumes of data could consume valuable resource. It was agreed to continue this discussion.

In their discussions on meeting the needs of members, the stakeholders shared concerns over the high level of opt outs in the Scheme, are currently in the region of 15-20%. It was agreed that this problem should be addressed. The stakeholders also agreed to develop the Strategic Discussion Forum (SDF) the purpose of which is to consider some of the longer term issues affecting the Scheme. It was agreed to continue these discussions.