USS Pension: Joint Expert Panel – Second Report

December 16th, 2019

The second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was published on Friday 13 December.

Established by Universities UK (UUK) and the University & College Union (UCU), the Panel consists of pensions and academic experts asked to make recommendations on the principles that could underpin the future joint approach of UUK and UCU to the valuation of the USS fund.

The second report by the Panel sets out a series of recommendations covering the governance of the USS pension scheme and its valuation methodology, including:

  • the establishment of a new, jointly agreed purpose statement and shared valuation principles;
  • the creation of a series of joint bodies within USS including a valuation forum and a high-level joint union/employer steering committee to agree issues relating to the future direction of the scheme;
  • improvements to the operation of the Joint Negotiating Committee which comprises UCU and UUK representatives;
  • agreement to a more appropriate valuation methodology driven by the agreed purpose of the scheme and a re-articulation of the Trustee’s, employers’ and employees’ risk appetites;
  • the adoption of a dual discount rate approach to the USS valuation which would distinguish between past and future service, better reflect the demographics of the scheme and automatically evolve as the scheme matures; and
  • investigation of different approaches to contributions in order to address the high level of scheme opt-outs among younger and lower paid staff.

Joanne Segars, chair of the JEP said:

“Our recommendations, which should be considered as a package, are rooted in the belief that the USS is of crucial importance to members, employers and to the health of the higher education sector.

“We propose significant changes to governance and valuation methodology, each of which may be difficult for individual parties to accept. However, as work on the 2020 valuation commences, employers, unions and the Trustee must urgently come together through a facilitated process to make them work.

“The JEP does not underestimate this task, but we believe that it would be failure for scheme members, sponsoring employers and the sector if our recommendations are not seriously considered.”

UUK and UCU have welcomed the report, issuing statements at UUK and UCU.

UUK will open a formal consultation with employers on the report’s recommendations in the new calendar year. In the meantime, Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West welcomed the report in her blog published today, Monday 16 December:

“My hope is that this offers the scheme’s Trustee, UUK and UCU improved grounds for national discussion and agreement on maintaining the scheme’s excellent benefits over the long term.”

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