Governing Body Statements
USS Pensions Dispute
Like other Cambridge colleges, this College has had a good deal of discussion of the current issues around the pensions dispute. Our main concerns are for the education and well-being of our students and for the professional security of our academic and other staff, present and future; in other words, we are concerned that we properly and responsibly exercise our duties as Trustees in promoting the primary objects of this institution.
We are well aware that we are bound to declare an interest in commenting on matters affecting our own remuneration; but as Trustees of a charitable body, we are nevertheless obliged to form a collective view on the College’s behalf as to how the College can continue to fulfil its functions as a responsible HE employer. In the time available to us, we have not been able to form such a view on any specific set of proposals. We would, however, wish to register some dismay at the level and nature of consultation thus far. Demands for views on complex issues have been made in circumstances in which it has not been possible to obtain an adequate and representative response through our proper governance structures. This is especially concerning, given that the proposals for restructuring of the pension scheme involve a significant and almost certainly irreversible change in the move to a defined contribution basis. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, it needs more discussion and exploration than has been offered; the main perception has been of a further erosion of the security of academic professionals. Whatever emerges, it needs to address this and to assure all members of the profession at any and every stage of their careers that they will not suffer serious net loss as a result of any fresh arrangements.
Public understanding of the questions involved has often been confused, and the reputation of the sector has been damaged in significant respects. This has been particularly marked in regard to Oxford and Cambridge Colleges, whose views have been (to put it mildly) misleadingly represented, as if our institutions were unanimously wedded to a maximally risk-averse policy. The response of our own Senior Bursar to the original questionnaire would not bear out such a generalisation.
The cost is high. Not only has trust between UUK and those working in the sector been affected, but our institutions are caught between the conflicting pressures of doing our best for our students and seeking the fairest outcome for our staff, both in the present circumstances and for the foreseeable future.
We would strongly support those who are arguing and working for a rapid pragmatic resolution and for a more open and effective communications strategy on these matters.