Felicity Callard Profile picture
Sep 16, 2018 18 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
So with the publication of the #JEP, the issue of UUK consultations with employer institutions is back big time. Both the famous Sept 2017 survey – and now the possibility, if JEP recommendations are taken up, of UUK reassessing employers' appetite for risk.

I'm worried. 1/
#JEP has emphasised the problems with how UUK framed the questions. What's really obvious if you look back Sept survey is that all the focus is on risk and on a *reduction to benefits*. And NOT on the potential to increase contributions. Or on amending the technical provisions 2/
You can see the structure of the questions here, in Nottingham's response (one of the institutions that wanted less risk): whatdotheyknow.com/request/440685… 3/
Look in particular at question 7(a):

7.(a) Does your institution prefer maintaining a level of DB accrual for future service at this valuation or moving to a DC-only solution (either temporarily or permanently)?
• Maintaining some DB
• Moving to DC Question 7a of survey
This UUK survey focus on reductions to benefits is *in spite* of fact that USS, in its Sept consultation on technical provisions, mentions various levers that cd be used – incl. increased contributions: sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.…

So, why did UUK structure their survey that way? 4/
Because they had already put in hard graft consolidating:

(i) 18% as the maximum employers would be willing to pay
(ii) a move to DC as a reasonable proposal

Well, their framing of questions extends much further back than Sept 2017 5/
Autumn 2016 is crucial.

Employers Pensions Forum (UUK and UCEA) run their townhall meetings on HE pensions strategy. Their briefing document mentions seeking "more fundamental benefit reform" as something employers should consider universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-ana… Exec summary from town hall EPF meeting
And we can now see how this is followed through in UUK's autumn 2016 survey to USS employers.

In the section on benefits, there are two questions whose responses include a move to DC (the screen shots are excerpted from: whatdotheyknow.com/request/505269…) 7/ Question 10 of UUK surveyQuestion 9 of UUK survey
And, notably, some powerful employers, in responding to that UUK autumn 2016 survey, help to embed:

(i) 18% as the maximum contribution / as their 'red line'
(ii) DC as the way to go 8/
Exeter, for example, endorses a move to a DC scheme, stating that it 'regrets that USS has not been able to manage the assets and liabilities of the scheme to enable to continuation of USS as a Defined Benefit Scheme' (whatdotheyknow.com/request/506696… draft submission) 9/
Cambridge says 'anything in excess of 18% is not sustainably affordable' & endorses move of USS to DC-only scheme.

NB This comes from the Pensions Working Group & 'has not been approved by the governing body' prior to submission cc @CambridgeUCU whatdotheyknow.com/request/505286… 10/
So, what's my point? I don't think we're remotely out of the woods yet, despite the JEP giving UCU good leverage to continue its fight to protect DB.


1. The juggernaut working to convince employers that DB is not sustainable has not been halted. And remember that the JEP Terms of Reference includes UUK/UCU discussions on 'alternative scheme design options'. 12/
2. The magical 18% 'maximum contribution' for employer contributions has been consolidated and embedded over quite some time -- and will continue to drive debates over the valuation, and over maximum employer contributions, not just now but well into he future. 13/
3. We have no guarantee that UUK will do any better, if it ends up reassessing employers' appetite for risk, than previously. Who will design that survey? Will Scheme members have sight of it? How will UUK collate responses? 14/
4. While the JEP tells us that employers' appetite for risk may have shifted since the Sept consultation, there's no evidence (yet) of employers embracing the sustainability of USS DB into the future. ussjep.org.uk/files/2018/09/… (p. 31) 15/ excerpt from p. 31 of JEP report linked to in tweet -- on employers' appetite for risk
The very first #USSbriefs I wrote focused on the drive to undermine/kill off DB – extending back at least to 2014 – amongst UUK and certain employers. medium.com/ussbriefs/the-… #USSbriefs1 16/
That's why we at @USSbriefs and @OpenUPP2018 remain more than vigilant. This is a long-term political & epistemic fight.

The #JEP report helps; of course it does.
But we should not for a minute imagine our work is done. 17/17

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Felicity Callard

Felicity Callard Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @felicitycallard

Oct 2, 2018
Given importance of HE sector "there may be a case for future governments to consider alternative options" (incl "state-backed guarantee" or "measures enabling more risk-taking"). Powerful piece from @JMariathasan on #USS DB debate post-#JEP ipe.com/analysis/blogs… #USSstrike 1/
Article argues that central problem lies in regulatory changes that transformed management of a DB pension scheme into "a risk management problem, not an investment one" 2/
Read 4 tweets
Sep 22, 2018
Thank you to @EricRoyalLybeck & all the other organisers in Exeter, as well as @ExeterUCU: Volunteer University Revisited was such a magical day. Gathering all of our energies for the months & years to come #YesVolUniCan 1/
Particularly magical to meet some people in the flesh for the first time -- incl. @thetroutpouts @lizmorrish @TheGraceK @sstroschein2 Mike Finn, Alison Wood, @ProfAlastair @ms_rhian @NoisyBits 2/
So many ideas for ways forward. So many kinds of expertise being bought to bear on what now, how, for universities as a community. Also so many testifying to violence, intimidation, threats to academic freedom – & of particular subjects being of course more exposed 3/3
Read 4 tweets
Sep 16, 2018
There's a bonanza of new FOI responses that give us a much better sense of the range of university responses to #UUK #USS consultations from Oct 2016 and Feb/March 2017. Picking through them it's fascinating to see which universities challenged the direction of travel 1/
e.g. Aberdeen: "Aon ... & UCU have indicated that it may be advantageous to consider other models. We are interested in the Trustees views as to whether there are alternative models that could result in a more considered outcome" whatdotheyknow.com/request/508696… cc @aberdeen_ucu 2/
e.g. LSE: "We note that the latest benefit changes were implemented less than 12 months ago. The School’s view is that it is too soon for further changes to be made." whatdotheyknow.com/request/509128… 3/
Read 6 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
2. #JEP has a lot to say about Test 1. Its sentence 'The view of the Panel is that Test 1 is not well understood outside of USS' is ... well ... certainly marvellously diplomatic.

Cf. and 6/
3. #JEP's discussion of #USS's & #UUK's 'differing perspectives' on the shift from Sept to Nov valuation shows just how murky the deliberations that resulted in this shift still are.

This remains a big issue, given #JEP proposal to reassess employers' atttude to risk (p. 45) 7/ Extract from p. 45 of JEP report
4. #JEP agrees w many of us that UUK's 'framing' of questions around risk in their consultations has serious consequences.

How can we be confident that any future assessment of employers' risk appetite by UUK shows an improvement in their use of social scientific methods? 🧐 8/
Read 13 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
After a few weeks away from Twitter, I'm back to think – alongside many others – about content & rhetoric of the #JEP.

And abt what we at @USSbriefs have been doing all summer w @OpenUPP2018 to encourage deliberations over #USS valuation to take place in public #USSstrike 1/
Many (incl. @NJSHardy @gailfdavies @DrJoGrady @etymologic @MikeOtsuka) have already provided cogent analyses of the #JEP report & its implications. So here I'll just going to pick out some of what has struck me most forcefully on a first read. #USSstrike 2/
1. There's a judicious use of rhetoric – particularly around 'confidence', '(mis)understanding' & 'communication'. This cleaves closely to that used by #UUK & Bill Galvin – whether that is deliberately so as to increase likelihood of acceptance by those parties, you can decide 3/
Read 5 tweets
Aug 17, 2018
It's been a pretty busy week at @USSbriefs HQ.

We published @BenPatrickWill's fantastic brief on what's coming down the chute in terms of transformation of HE into performance data. An essential read – & glorious @acupunctureUSS design #USSbriefs40 medium.com/ussbriefs/numb… 1/
We published Richard Farndale's (in consultation with @CambridgeUCU Exec) excellent set of questions for the #JEP in our @OpenUPP2018 series #USSbriefs41 medium.com/ussbriefs/cruc… 2/
We published @carlomorelliUCU's excellent submission to #JEP (in our @OpenUPP2018 series) on the wider context & political economyof EU legislation – & discount rates – around pensions #USSbriefs42 medium.com/ussbriefs/euro… 3/
Read 9 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!