UK Universities Facing ‘unaffordable’ Hike In Pension Contributions
University staff and employers have come together to criticize the "impractical" rise in contributions demanded by the main higher education pension scheme. The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which is the main staff pension fund for numerous British universities and academic institutions, has declared its intent to increase combined contributions required from staff and employers from 30.7% of payroll to up to 56%, to cover its projected deficits. This move sent shockwaves through the academic community, where the pension administered by USS has provoked several protests over the past three years. "After a decade of reduced pay and conditions, many precarious and low-paid higher education workers can no longer afford to be USS members," said Jo Grady, the general secretary of the University and College Union. The union intends to hold a conference to determine its next steps, with Grady warning that it "cannot rule anything out".
The demand for higher contributions seems to have been triggered partially by Trinity College, Cambridge’s choice to withdraw from the plan altogether in 2019, causing worries others might follow. Kate Barker, the chair of the USS’s trustee board, said: "Trends in financial markets have made the valuable pension promise offered by USS – a set inflation-linked income for life in retirement, regardless of what happens to the economy in future – much more expensive today than in the past." The USS administers the pension fund on behalf of over 300 organizations, including multiple universities, encompassing 400,000 active or retired staff, making it one of the UK’s largest pension funds.