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Overhaul of university pensions could leave staff £200,000 worse off in retirement

30 November 2017

Staff in some of the UK's most elite universities will see the value of their retirement income drop by as much as £200,000 if hardline proposals from universities are brought in. Analysis by independent experts First Actuarial [1mb] shows that a lecturer starting work today could be £208,000 worse off over the course of their retirement - £9,600 a year - under the new proposals for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The modelling also reveals that the lecturer would be £385,000 worse off than if they worked in their nearest new 'post-92' university where academics' pensions are paid by the rival Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) rather than USS.

The report also looks in detail at the impact on staff in USS and finds that a lecturer who started in 2007 and has 10 years' past service could see their annual pension fall by just over £6,000 a year in retirement, or £131,000 in total. The total loss in retirement for current USS members reduces with the more past service they have. Someone with 20 years' past service could lose £35,000 in total.

The revelations about how much staff can expect to lose come UCU members start to receive ballot papers asking them to back a sustained campaign of strikes and other forms of industrial action. The union has warned of "chaos on campuses" in the new year if the dispute cannot be resolved. The postal ballot opened on Wednesday and will close on Friday 19 January.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'This analysis reveals just how damaging UUK's hardline plans for the pension scheme would be on an individual basis for people who have planned and saved for their retirement.

'Already offering worse benefits than other schemes available in the sector, these proposals would devastate USS members' pensions and could create a recruitment and retention crisis as staff jump ship to secure their futures.

'I would urge all members to take a look at what these proposals would mean for them and then make sure they vote in the ballot for industrial action.'


Table 1: Comparison of current pension income against UUK's plans and current Teachers' Pension Scheme

Staff profile

Current deal

UUK proposals

Loss total

Annual loss


Starts on £39,992 and moves up pay spine to £47,722






Starts on £39,992 and moves up pay spine to £58,655






Starts on £39,992 and moves up pay spine to £110,217






Assumes all work 30 years paying into USS. Retirement of 27 years. TPS members pay slightly higher contributions


Table 2: Impact of UUK's plans for different staff already in USS

Staff member

Current deal

UUK proposals

Loss total

Loss annual

To retire in 2047 aged 68. Started on spine 31 (now at £33,518) in 2007 (10 years' past service).





To retire in 2037 aged 67. Started on spine 31 (now at £33,518) in 2002 (15 years' past service).





To retire in 2027 aged 66. Started on spine 31 (now at £33,518) in 1997 (20 years' past service).






Last updated: 26 January 2018