Universities UK statement on behalf of USS employers

15 Mar 2023

Universities UK (UUK), on behalf of USS employers, has today issued a joint statement with the University and College Union (UCU) outlining how both parties are working together on the future of USS benefits.

This latest statement builds on the interim statement in February, and outlines in further detail the key commitments and steps that are being explored in light of recent monitoring figures from the USS Trustee which show a significant improvement in the financial position of the scheme.

A spokesperson for Universities UK on behalf of USS Employers said:

“The improvement in the financial position of the scheme, and particularly the dramatic swing from the situation it was facing only a year ago has been remarkable. While the wider economic climate remains challenging, the current funding position is good news for USS scheme members and employers alike. 

“Rapidly rising interest rates were a big driver of that improvement, but the benefits changes made in April 2022 also played a significant part in stabilising the scheme’s finances.  Employers were always clear that, should the situation markedly improve then we would work with the Trustee on how those benefit changes might be reviewed at future valuations.

“We are pleased to have continued to have collaborative and constructive talks with the union at the Joint Negotiating Committee on our shared commitments for the future of the scheme.

“These are to; prioritise the improvement of benefits to pre-April 2022 levels alongside a reduction in contributions (subject to USS Trustee pricing confirmation), avoid dispute at future valuations by working together to ensure valuations are moderately prudent and evidence-based, developing a robust and transparent mechanism for managing risk and providing sustainable benefits and contributions for future valuations, and continuing positive dialogue with the Pensions Regulator and government. We also hold a shared commitment to a review of the governance of USS.

“With the support of the USS Trustee we have been making significant progress in these areas and look forward to continued constructive negotiation with the UCU.”

Further updates will be provided in due course.

This announcement coincides with a joint statement from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and UCU outlining progress on their negotiations on pay spine, workload, contract types and pay gaps. 

Notes to editors

  • At the last scheme valuation as at March 2020, the USS trustee reported a significant deficit in the scheme and a substantial increase in the cost of future benefits, which required changes to be made in terms of both higher contributions and reductions in future benefits (the latter implemented from April 2022).
  • The USS employer contribution rose to 21.6% of salary in April 2022 which is three times higher than the average employer contribution rate among the FTSE 250 companies, p11, WTW Defined Contribution and Savings Survey, 2022