Oxbridge Fellows please support the USS rule change to prevent a second Trinity

Scheme members also need the support of UCU HESC and Cambridge and Oxford UCU branches

1. We have learned that if one more wealthy Oxford or Cambridge College follows Trinity in withdrawing from USS, the scheme’s covenant strength will be downgraded, making it much more challenging to sustain our current level of DB provision at an affordable contribution rate.

2. Cambridge and Oxford College Fellows: please therefore ensure that your College strongly supports the rule change that would prevent a second College from withdrawing from USS in the event that (as PWC claims it would) this would lead to a downgrading of the strength of the covenant.

3. Strong support of this rule change from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge will also be important. It’s therefore also important that Oxford and Cambridge university members of your governing bodies — Regent House or Congregation — use your unique democratic power to ensure that your universities are strongly behind this rule change.

4. It is also important that other university employers strongly support the rule change, and USS members and UCU branches across the pre-92 sector should let your own employers know of the importance of supporting this rule to prevent a downgrading of the covenant.

5. But the support of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and their Colleges is especially important, since only some of the especially wealthy Colleges of these Universities might now be tempted by the option of leaving the scheme, given how expensive it is to buy out their liabilities, and how remote the risk against which such an expensive insurance policy would provide protection.

6. It was the actions of the Bursars, Heads of House, CFO’s and VC’s of Oxford and Cambridge — contrary to the wills of the members of their governing bodies — which played a large role in last year’s attempt to close the scheme to future DB accrual. Oxford and Cambridge Fellows: please don’t let the institutions you are uniquely entitled to democratically govern act so contrary to your own interests, and that of USS members more generally, once again. Please ensure that the institutions you collectively govern strongly support the rule change.

7. I hope the Cambridge and Oxford UCU union branches will issue strong statements urging the members of their universities to support this rule change. Backing of this rule change is now at least as important as the sterling efforts of Cambridge UCU in making the case for the academic boycott of Trinity (which I supported here). Since the consultation closes on Thursday, I hope the Cambridge and Oxford branches of UCU will launch a petition today, which might simply read as follows:

We the undersigned members of the governing bodies of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Colleges call on our University and College to indicate strong and unqualified support for the USS rule change on which UUK is now consulting members, which would prevent another College or other higher education institution from following the example of Trinity College Cambridge by leaving the scheme, in the event that this would lead to a downgrading of the strength of the employer covenant.

8. I also hope that our UCU union will let employers know how important it is that they support the rule change. Such UCU support does not imply support of USS’s Option 3 or any other USS option currently on the table. Even someone who rejects all three options in favour of No Detriment should urge your employer to strongly support this rule change to prevent further employer undermining of the mutuality of the scheme. I hope it might be possible, via amendment from the floor, to include such a call in one of the USS motions that will be debated at HESC today.

Written by

Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method, LSE

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