Felicity Callard Profile picture
Mar 7, 2018 20 tweets 15 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Back to the complex links between gov policy, consultants, pension plans -- & the making of worlds & futures.

Or: where my trawl through parliamentary committees has taken me today & how it bears on current @ucu & @UniversitiesUK negotiations #ucustrikes #USSstrikes
See @ucu's list of things it wants to work with employers on, particularly what is in the orange rectangle #USSstrikes #ucustrike ucu.org.uk/article/9364/F…
Aon Hewitt -- the consultancy Universities UK has been working with since at least 2007 -- has been pushing CDCs (or 'defined aspiration'/'defined ambition') [wow, the language] in its engagements with government at least since 2012 publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cm… #USSstrikes #ucustrike
I am in no way any kind of expert on CDCs (I mean, I barely knew the difference btw DB & DC until the strike started [see: @CLIVEYB's poptheory.org/2018/03/07/the…]), but I think it's important that we bear in mind that Aon Hewitt is VERY MUCH into them #ucustrikes #ussstrikes
And my trawl through websites & docs in last few days really bring home how the futures of government and other policies (as well as norms, instruments, apparatuses) can be set in motion (again, see work by @AmooreLouise @harrietbulkeley)
Now -- & here is where I really need help of people who actually research this stuff & know about history of pensions policies in the UK -- my sense is that there is a lively debate in 2012 & into present about CDCs, i.e. there is heterogeneity in position #ucustrike #ussstrikes
For example, Mercer (one of the other 'top 3' consultancies in pensions field, seems much more lukewarm about CDCs in its 2012 submission parliament.uk/documents/Bind…
There was a lot of discussion of the risks & benefits of CDCs amongst the witnesses (who included Martin Lowes for Aon Hewitt) for the 2014 Public Bill Committee publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cm… #ucustrike #USSstrikes
And here is Aon Hewitt's own 2013 doc "Making the Case for Collective DC" aon.com/unitedkingdom/… (Remember: Kevin Wesbroom appeared in front of the Parliamentary Committee)
Implementation of CDC is announced in the Queen's Speech in the summer of 2014 bbc.co.uk/news/uk-276538…, and Aon Hewitt warmly welcomes this, unlike Mercer hub.ipe.com/news/uk-set-to…
An inquiry into CDCs launches Nov 17. The landing page references studies by Aon Hewitt and the RSA that allege that 'CDC could have delivered 33% better pension outcomes than traditional DC over the past half-century'. parliament.uk/business/commi… #ucustrike #USSstrikes
6 days ago (i.e. *this is all happening right now*) Work & Pensions Select Committee has apparently received 'mixed response' to its consultation. Aon has made a submission; Mercer hasn't ipe.com/pensions/count…
Now @RosieCox007 has reminded me of all the work that @MikeOtsuka has done on DCD. See his submission here data.parliament.uk/writtenevidenc… & all the submissions here parliament.uk/business/commi…
I've attached @MikeOtsuka's summary about CDC at the top of his submission, and also his really interesting footnote 3 on the independent replication of the approach taken by Aon data.parliament.uk/writtenevidenc…
Here is Aon's own written evidence (thanks for the link, @MikeOtsuka) in favour of CDC data.parliament.uk/writtenevidenc…. I've pulled out a particular passage
To be very clear. My point is not to take a position on CDCs. I've been interested in following the intertwinement of Aon & Universities UK (inspired by @gailfdavies). And today I became interested in tracking where & how Aon pops up in parliamentary processes
Throughout I've been interested in how futures are set in motion, and ideas & values seeded. We know that UUK & Aon have been working together for years; Aon has been an important expert for gov pension policy; & UCU is proposing working w employers on CDCs #USSstrike #ucustrike
I have a very basic question, I suppose. Does anything that we now know from @MikeOtsuka's @frenchshaun's @ewanmcg's @gailfdavies' & my writings/tweets - put alongside the actions of UUK over last few days - give us pause in relation to where we want to head to in this dispute?
And in addition, I also am completely gripped by how UK university pensions are a kind of experimental laboratory. See @CLIVEYB poptheory.org/2018/03/07/the…
Aon's also stages early champions of CDC as key to generating momentum. Might, will, & ought the UK university sector be central to this experiment & its bringing about of a new reality? What role might, will & ought Aon to play -- and where - here?

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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 16, 2018
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/
Read 18 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

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