Response to valuation of the University Superannuation Scheme

In response to the information circulated by the University recently concerning the valuation of the University Superannuation Scheme, our former Surrey UCU Pension Rep is happy to share his consequent response to the University:

I believe that USS is using the same Gilts plus methodology for valuation which they used in 2014 therefore it is not more optimistic. It is also more pessimistic than USS’s best estimate of future returns on their investments. 

Independent studies, and I believe those of USS’s consultants, have verified that the required funding gap is within the employers ability to pay but may not be in line with employers willingness to pay. It all revolves around how much employers value their employees across the whole range of the salary spectrum.

Report for UCU: Progressing the valuation of the USS. 15 September 2017. The First Actuarial report prepared for UCU as a response to the USS’s consultation document, also concludes:  The current employers’ contribution rate of 18% of pensionable pay, of which 15.1% goes towards defined benefits, is prudent. The asset income which is required, in addition to contributions, to pay the benefits in full is low. Indeed, in a scenario of “best estimate” pay rises, the benefits of the USS can very nearly be paid from contributions, without reliance on the assets. We can be very confident that the scheme is not vulnerable to forced disinvestment. We can be very confident that the cash flow in will meet benefit outgo for the very long term, so in the mean time fluctuations of market value or the pension scheme’s balance sheet are of low importance. The break even returns of 1.36% pa real CPI on past service and 1.85% pa real over CPI on future service are well below the expected returns on equities and property. The likelihood that the USS can achieve the break even returns is high. If the actual performance achieved exceeds the break even returns, the funding level will improve. Any funding level could be achieved eventually, given time. The cost of longevity improvements should be partially covered by the link of the USS’s NPA to SPA. At some point, there may need to be an adjustment to the balance of the contribution rate and the benefits to respond to improving longevity, but this point is not imminent. Subject to this point about increasing longevity, the cash flow analysis does not show any need to increase the contribution rate. The employers should be able to regard their current contribution rate as reliable. Making the same point the other way around, there is no need to reduce members’ benefits. Full report:

Urgent announcement from Sally Hunt: A major university (Southampton) has become the first to publicly call for current USS pension benefits to be wholly replaced by a defined contribution scheme. Forget the pensions jargon. What this means in simple terms is that rather than being based on scheme rules as now, your annual pension will be completely dependent upon what returns your monthly USS contributions can get from the stock market. If other universities follow suit, UCU will need every member to stand together with the union and say NO.

Please also find the following information on USS which may be of use:

Request a replacement USS e-ballotThe ballot to defend the USS pension is currently open. If you haven’t voted please vote now. It’s crucial that we show that members are prepared to defend their pensions so please check your inbox (and junk box) for the unique link UCU has sent you and let UCU know if you can’t find it:

USS Posters: show your support. If you’ve already voted why not put one of the new UCU / USS posters up on your door. Please download here:

We will keep you updated as and when we receive more details –