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Pension cuts prompt fears of two-tier pensions at UK universities

9 October 2014

Staff at some of the UK's most selective universities will have pensions up to 36% worse than their colleagues at other universities if radical proposals for pensions are forced through, warns new analysis released today.

The changes would mean universities such as Oxford and Cambridge would be offering pension deals worth thousands of pounds less per year than local rivals such as Oxford Brookes or Anglia Ruskin.

UCU's analysis by shows how staff at so called 'new' universities who are members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) would take home up to almost £20,000 more a year in retirement than colleagues at Russell Group institutions who belong to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

UCU is balloting members in 69 universities for industrial action to oppose the changes. The ballot opened last Wednesday (1 October) and closes on Monday 20 October. UCU said it will be asking members to back plans for a marking boycott and to refuse to set exams. The action would mean students would not be set coursework or receive formal marks and feedback, and exams would be halted.

For more on the dispute visit

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The Russell Group of universities and other self-described elite institutions often boast about being the leading lights of the UK higher education sector. However, if these radical changes are forced through they drop to the bottom of the table for staff pensions.

'Once prospective staff know that pensions at some our most famous universities are up to 36% lower than the new universities there will be real concerns about recruitment and retention of the brightest talent.'

Career profile

Current annual USS pension

Pension under new proposals

TPS equivalent

Annual difference between current USS pension and TPS

Annual difference between new USS scheme and TPS

Age 40, joined scheme at 25, retires at 68 on salary of £45,954






Lecturer started later:
Age 51, joined scheme at 36, retires at 68, final salary of £45,954






Senior (snr) lecturer:
Age 40, joined scheme at 25, retires at 68 on salary of £54,841






Snr lecturer started later:
Age 50, joined scheme at 35, retires at 67 on salary of £54,841






Age 40, joined scheme at 25, retires at 66 on salary of £75,000






Last updated: 10 December 2015