University staff are right to be striking – letter to the Guardian 30 January

There is no justification for this pension attack – USS’s finances are strong, argue 153 university academics

University employers have provoked the largest vote for industrial action ever seen in the higher education sector. They have done this by overseeing what they present as a financial crisis for the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), and by threatening enormous cuts to the pensions of hundreds of thousands of university staff. None of this is necessary. It is the result of the misrepresentation of USS finances, and the desire of a new breed of university managements to cut their pension liabilities and thereby ease the financing of new buildings and campuses.

Successive Pension Acts have encouraged managers of private sector schemes to exaggerate the risk of default. Combined with quantitative easing, this has led to a headlong abandonment of final salary defined benefit to “defined contribution” schemes, where employees rather than employers bear investment risk.

Higher education is shaped by frantic competition for students and huge building projects. Universities can recruit unlimited UK undergraduates paying an annual £9,000+, backed by taxpayer loans. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 even allows universities to go bankrupt. It is not just students, parents and the taxpayers of the future who are paying for this ultra-competition. Pension cuts are estimated at £200,000, with the worst hit being the youngest. The next generation of university academics, already bearing huge student debts, now face the deepest cut in pensions. There is no justification for this pension attack. By any normal commercial measure, USS’s finances are strong. Assets have grown by an average of 12% a year for the last five years, and it has a record number of staff paying into the scheme. Actuaries report that USS could pay pensioners directly from its income for 40 years without touching its assets.

Staff are right to strike to defend their pensions. The government has caused this confected “crisis”, and it is the university employers who are seeking to take advantage of it to get staff pensions off their books.

Sean Wallis University College London (UCU NEC branch VP co-editor of The Alternative White Paper for HE)
John Holmwood University of Nottingham (Campaign for the Public University  AWP co-editor)
Tom Hickey University of Brighton (Brighton UCU and CDBU  AWP co-editor)
Lee Jones Queen Mary University of London (CPU)
Prof David Midgley University of Cambridge (CDBU)
Dr Nicholas Cimini Edinburgh Napier University (EIS-ULA President)
Carlo Morelli University of Dundee (UCU NEC UCU USS negotiator)
Marion Hersh Glasgow University (UCU USS negotiator)
Julie Hearn Lancaster University (UCU NEC branch president)
Sue Abbott Newcastle University (UCU NEC)
Lesley Kane Open University (UCU NEC branch president)
Rachel Cohen City University of London (UCU NEC; co-editor of AWP)
Lesley McGorrigan University of Leeds (UCU NEC)
Christina Paine London Metropolitan University (UCU NEC branch secretary)
Emma-Jane Phillips Northumbria University (UCU NEC; branch secretary)
Paul Errington Teesside University (UCU NEC)
Sandy Nicoll SOAS University of London (UNISON branch secretary)
Christopher Roche University of Bath (UNISON branch secretary)
Margot Hill Croydon College (UCU NEC)
Mandy Brown Lambeth College (UCU NEC; UCU London Regional Secretary)
Jo McNeill University of Liverpool (UCU branch president)
Adrian Budd Southbank University (UCU branch secretary)
Saladin Meckled-Garcia University College London (UCU branch president)
Prof Alison Sealey Lancaster University
Majella Lane School of Pharmacy University College London (UCU branch committee member)
Nadia Edmond University of Brighton (UCU branch president)
James Richards Heriot-Watt University (UCU branch president)
Feyzi Ismail SOAS University of London (UCU branch committee member)
Prof Judi Loach Cardiff University (retired)
Joao Florencio University of Exeter (UCU South West Equality Officer)
David Campbell Heriot Watt University
Shereen Benjamin University of Edinburgh (UCU branch committee member)
Prof Desmulliez Heriot Watt University
Prof Graham Turner Heriot-Watt University
Ruth Humphreys Heriot Watt University
Prof Nicholas Ridout Queen Mary University of London
Liz Morrish
Olwyn Alexander Heriot-Watt University
Ann McFall Heriot Watt University
Prof Mike Danson Heriot-Watt University
Jonathan Fanning University of York
Sam Marsh University of Sheffield
Shona Morse University of Edinburgh (retired)
Maria Garraffa Heriot-Watt University
Prof Luke Martell University of Sussex
Alvaro Martinez-Perez University of Sheffield
Prof Craig Brandist University of Sheffield (UCU branch president)
Bruce Baker Newcastle University (UCU branch president)
Prof Wilson McLeod University of Edinburgh
Kathleen Jenkins Universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, and Heriot Watt (retired)
Rick Saull Queen Mary, University of London
James Cruise Heriot-Watt University
Stuart Oliver St Mary’s University, Twickenham (UCU London Regional Chair; UCU branch secretary)
Prof Bryan Rynne Heriot-Watt University
Roddy Slorach Imperial College London
Josh Hollands University College London
Dr Christy Kelly Heriot-Watt University
Keith Simpson City University of London (UCU branch vice president)
Prof Dennis Leech University of Warwick (retd.; UCU branch pensions officer)
Gale Macleod University of Edinburgh
Stuart Moir University of Edinburgh (Bicentennial Education Fellow; UCU Activist)
Delia Lomax Heriot Watt University (retired)
Alan Forster Heriot Watt University
Alan Harrison Brunel University (retired, ex-AUT branch president)
Stan Zachary University of Edinburgh
Prof Malcolm Povey University of Leeds
Christine Sinclair University of Edinburgh
Ken McCulloch University of Edinburgh
Prof Matthew Beaumont University College London
Jim Wolfreys King’s College London (UCU branch president)
Prof Ray Bush University of Leeds
Jim Tyson University College London
John Haight University College London (retired)
Prof Roger Ingham University of Southampton (former branch president)
John Parrington University of Oxford
Harry Stopes Queen Mary University of London
Martin King Royal Holloway University of London
Prof Christine Cooper University of Strathclyde
Prof Scott Thinks Heriot-Watt University
James Cranch University of Sheffield (UCU branch committee)
Charlotte Faucher University of Manchester
Greg Michaelson Heriot-Watt University (UCU branch committee)
Cori Ruktanonchai University of Southampton (UCU post graduate rep)
Grant Wright Heriot-Watt University
Prof James Dickins University of Leeds
Prof Nicky Priaulx Cardiff University
Martin Weinel Cardiff University
Mehdi Husaini Teesside University
Mike Finn University of Exeter
Johnny Darlington SOAS University of London (UCU branch secretary)
Prof Matthew Williams Cardiff University
Nick Parsons Cardiff University
Rachel Swann Cardiff University
Prof Pete Dorey Cardiff University
Rachel Hurdley Cardiff University
Guy Major Cardiff University
Jonathan Marsh Cardiff University
Prof Trevor Dale Cardiff University
Prof Marysia Zalewski Cardiff University
Bernadette Rainey Cardiff University
Iain Brassington University of Manchester
Prof Sin Yi Cheung Cardiff University
Monika Hennemann Cardiff University
Eric R Lybeck University of Exeter
Prof Victoria Wass Cardiff University
Prof Craig Richardson Loughborough University
Prof Christopher MacLeod Cardiff University
Tom Bartlett Cardiff University
Algy Kazlauciunas Leeds University
Prof Jonathan T Erichsen Cardiff University
Richard McEwan Tower Hamlets College (UCU FE national negotiator)
Umit Yildiz Edge Hill University
Jonathan Ben-Artzi Cardiff University
Katherine Shelton Cardiff University
Jonathan Benson University of Sheffield (UCU branch vice president)
Mira Vogel University College London (UCU departmental rep)
Wilma Alexander University of Edinburgh
Joe Smith Stirling University (UCU branch secretary)
Nalini Vittal University College London (UCU branch committee)
Alexia Yates University of Manchester
Paul Cockshott University of Glasgow
Sarah Wilson University of Stirling
Rita Hordósy University of Sheffield (UCU branch committee)
Stewart Smyth University of Sheffield
Mark Abel University of Brighton (UCU branch president)
Prof Muireann Quigley University of Birmingham
Prof Jon Crowcroft University of Cambridge
Mike Sheaff University of Plymouth (UCU branch committee)
Benjamin Farrand University of Warwick
Prof Fergus Nicol London Metropolitan University (UCU branch committee)
Sonja Curtis University College London (UCU branch committee)
Helen Crosby Heriot-Watt University
Prof Debbie Foster Cardiff University
Alasdair Gray Heriot-Watt University
Prof Rebecca Ruth Gould University of Birmingham
Frederic Bosche Heriot-Watt University
Savi Maharaj University of Stirling
Sara Bragadina University College London
Peter Dwyer Ruskin College Oxford
Prof Catriona Mckinnon University of Reading
Sherrill Stroschein University College London
Prof David Cobham Heriot-Watt University
Prof Patrick Haggard University College London
Renata Medeiros Mirra Cardiff University
Karen Dwyer University College London
Prof Ruth Aylett Heriot-Watt Univeraity (UCU branch committee)
Nigel Caldwell Heriot Watt University
Prof Manuel Souto-Otero Cardiff University
Nicola Barker University of Kent
Prof Alan Felstead Cardiff University
Andrea I Frank Cardiff University
Prof Philip Taylor University of Strathclyde
Prof Adam Hedgecoe Cardiff University
Marc Schweissinger Cardiff University

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