The Joint Expert Panel (JEP), is a panel of independent experts, who have been reviewing the 2017 USS valuation since May 2018.
It’s comprised of six actuarial and academic experts, nominated equally (three each) by Universities UK (UUK) and the University and College Union (UCU). The panel is led by a jointly agreed chair, Joanne Segars OBE.
Under the chair’s guidance, the panel has been examining the assumptions and methodology used for the 2017 valuation, and submitted a report of its findings in September 2018. Employers were subsequently consulted on the JEP’s findings, with the majority expressing conditional support. The JEP's report was also endorsed by UCU's Superannuation Working Group.
At the outset, the panel agreed to take into account the fact that scheme members highly value ‘defined benefits’ – a guaranteed pension. They also agreed to consider issues such as intergenerational fairness, equality, and the unique nature of the higher education sector, as well as an overriding concern that any future benefits arrangements be affordable for members and employers.
Why did we need the JEP?
After a year of negotiations, talks between UUK and UCU reached a critical impasse in early 2018, leading to widespread industrial action at UK universities. Both parties subsequently agreed to meet for further talks, mediated by the conciliation service Acas. An initial agreement on benefit reform was reached, but members of the University and College Union voted against its implementation. A decision was made to pause further benefit reform discussions in order to get an expert opinion on the valuation. It was agreed that this would help to build trust and confidence in the process. The idea for the JEP was therefore put forward. It was agreed upon, and it was decided that there would be no changes to the pension scheme while the panel was undertaking its work.
Who are the JEP members?
The chair, jointly agreed by UCU and UUK, is Joanne Segars. Joanne has extensive experience of UK pensions, having previously served as Head of Pensions at the Trades Union Congress, and Chief Executive of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association. Joanne’s role as JEP chair is to ensure the panel functions effectively, with all panel members participating fully.
The panel has access to expert witnesses – including, but not limited to – actuarial advisers of UUK and UCU, the USS Trustee, scheme actuary and the Pensions Regulator.
The UCU nominated panellists are:
- Saul Jacka – Professor of Statistics, University of Warwick
- Deborah Mabbett – Professor of Public Policy, Birkbeck University of London
- Bryn Davies – Director & Actuary at Union Pension Services Limited
- Catherine Donnelly – Associate Professor, Department of Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics, Heriot Watt University
The Universities UK nominated panellists are:
- Ronnie Bowie, Chair of Court, University of Dundee
- Sally Bridgeland, Investment consultant, actuary and former CEO of the BP Pension Fund
- Chris Curry, Director, Pensions Policy Institute