University assessment boycott set for 6 November in pensions row

27 October 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU members in 69 UK universities* will begin an assessment boycott on Thursday 6 November. The assessment boycott will stop students being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams.

The union said it had announced the action after talks between UCU and the employers' representatives last week had failed to provide a guarantee the employers were making any effort to protect the pensions of members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The union said more detailed negotiations would be required to solve the current impasse. It said it was unhappy the employers had presented their proposals as a fait accompli, especially as much of their work has been discredited by statisticians, universities and UCU.

Last week the University of Warwick became the latest to find fault with the employers' proposals and their attempts to promote them. Warwick criticised the lack of alternatives put forward by UUK and how unattractive the reformed scheme will look compared to another scheme available in higher education.

The next negotiating meeting is set for Friday 7 November. However, UCU said it was happy to clear its diary and meet sooner.

The increasingly bitter row centres around the employers' proposals that would see scheme members lose thousands of pounds in retirement. Universities UK wants to end the final salary element of the scheme for all USS members and move them to a career average (career revalued benefits or CRB) scheme.

Under this model members would receive CRB benefits only up to a salary threshold of £50,000. After they hit the threshold, employers will pay only 12 per cent of income into a defined contribution scheme, which shifts the risk to scheme members, and would rely on successful investments.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The employers failed to convince us of the need for their dramatic changes or the reasons behind the methodology for its deficit reduction plan. Their proposals remain full of holes and the information they are apparently relying on to back them up keeps being exposed as misleading.

'We are setting plans for an assessment boycott in place because USS members have made it clear they are unconvinced by the employers' arguments as well. We are being asked to buy a pig in a poke and that is simply not acceptable. We hope the employers will come back to the table for genuine negotiations aimed at resolved the enormous gap between our two positions.'

As well as the criticism from the University of Warwick, the University of Oxford recently described a briefing from the Employers Pension Forum (a group set up by UUK) as misleading. While a group of statisticians said assumptions used by the employers in a separate briefing contained 'misinformation and a mistake' and were not adequately justified. The employers had previously removed a whole section from a different briefing after it was revealed they had misused statistics.

* The 69 universities that will be hit by the marking boycott:

Aberdeen, The University of
Aberystwyth University
Aston University
Bangor University
Bath, University of
Belfast, Queen's University of
Birkbeck College, University of London
Birmingham, University of
Bradford, University of
Bristol, University of
Brunel University
Cambridge, University of
Cardiff, University of
City University
Courtauld Institute
Cranfield University
Dundee, The University of
Durham University
East Anglia, University of
Edinburgh, University of
Essex, University of
Exeter, University of
Glasgow, The University of
Goldsmiths College, University of London
Heriot-Watt University
Hull, The University of
Imperial College London
Institute of Education, University of London
Keele University
Kent, The University of
King's College London
Lancaster, University of
Leeds, The University of
Leicester, University of
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Liverpool, University of
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
London School of Economics
Loughborough University
Manchester, The University of
Newcastle University
Nottingham, The University of
Open University
Oxford, University of
Queen Mary, University of London
Reading, University of
Royal Holloway, University of London
Royal Veterinary College
Ruskin College
Salford, The University of
School of Pharmacy, University of London
Scottish Association of Marine Science (academic partner in the University of Highlands and Islands)
Senate House, University of London
Sheffield, The University of
SOAS, University of London
Southampton, University of
St Andrews, University of
St George's, University of London
Stirling, The University of
Strathclyde, University of
Surrey, University of
Sussex, University of
Swansea University
Ulster, University of
University Campus Suffolk
University College London
University of Wales, Trinity St David
Warwick, University of
York, University of