Fighting fund banner


Piggy bank with coins


5 November 2004

As life expectancy increases and pension values change, it is more important than ever to make sure you plan for your retirement.

There are three main types of pension provision:

  • State - the state pension is paid to citizens who have paid sufficient national insurance contributions during working age
  • Occupational - provided by your employer. You are strongly recommended to join your employers' occupational pension scheme as your employer also pays into it as well as you
  • Private - typically arranged with banks or insurance companies but can include property and other investments.

Occupational pensions are important for everyone, regardless of age, because they are 'deferred pay' during your employment and your income in retirement. One of UCU's key roles is to represent your interests in occupational pension matters.

Find further information here about the state retirement pension including how to check whether you have paid sufficient National Insurance for a full pension.

The information contained on this and/or other UCU website pages cannot be taken as advice on any course of action to take, or not to take. We recommend that you take independent financial advice on your retirement planning needs and arrangements. This may include using the services of Lighthouse Financial Advice.

Occupational pension schemes in post-16 education

Across the education sector there are currently several different schemes. The scheme offered to you will depend on your employing institution and sometimes on the category of your employment e.g. if you are teaching or support.

Thinking of leaving your occupational pension? Read this first! [921kb]

Higher education

Most staff working in pre-92 higher education institutions are members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), although a small number remain in the modified Federated Superannuation System for Universities (FSSU), or their own university superannuation schemes.

Members working in the post-92 higher education institutions in England and Wales are normally offered membership of either the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) or a Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) as applicable to their post. Members moving to post-92 institutions who have come from pre-92 institutions may be able to remain in USS depending on the role they are taking up. We recommend members consider what is best for them depending on their circumstances.

Members in Scotland's post-92 higher education institutions may be covered by the Scottish Teachers' Pension Scheme (STPS) or its predecessor, the Scottish Teachers' Superannuation Scheme (STSS) or a local government scheme.

Members in Northern Ireland are covered by the Northern Ireland Teachers Pension Scheme run by the Department of Education.

Further education and adult education

If you work in further education and local authority provided adult education in England and Wales you are probably covered by the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) or a Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) as applicable to your post. There are similar, but separate, arrangements for teachers in Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Prison education

If you work in a prison but are employed by an FE college (e.g. Novus, MKC) you are probably either in the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) or Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) as applicable to your post. If you are employed by private providers e.g. A4E, they will have their own occupational pension arrangements

Scheme administrators

UCU: looking after members' interests

UCU has representation on the staff side of the negotiating machinery of TPS and USS (sole representation in the latter case) and has representation on the trustee board of USS.

We also have a number of regional retired member branches who help create UCU policy and advise on national policy.

Our pension officials in UCU's bargaining and negotiating team can offer help and support to members and branches on pension related issues - contact

Advice about pensions

Covid-19 crisis: how might pensions be affected

Most members who worked from home during the height of the pandemic will not see any effect on their pension, but those who were furloughed or who volunteered in the NHS may need to check the effect on their benefits. UCU have been involved talking to the schemes to get protection for members in these times. The links below will take you to the webpage of each scheme where you should find answers to your questions. Any other queries please contact


Teacher's Pension (England & Wales)
Scottish Teachers Superannuation Scheme
Northern Ireland Teachers Pension Scheme

Pension Wise from Money Helper

Money Helper - is a UK government backed service for all things financial including debt advice. The pensions and retirement section of their website has lots of useful information and is where you can access the Pension Wise advice service.

In addition - If you have a defined contribution pension (e.g. the investment builder in USS) you can make an appointment to speak to one of the specialist Pension Wise advisers who can:

  • explain your pension options
  • explain how each option is taxed
  • tell you what your next steps are.

Visit their webpage or call 0800 138 3944 to book an appointment.

The Pension Regulator (tPR)

The Pension Regulator is the UK regulator of workplace pension schemes. They make sure that employers put their staff into a pension scheme and pay money into it as well as making sure that workplace pension schemes are run properly. Contact them if you have concerns about your workplace pension scheme, such as underpaid pension contributions, or suspect it isn't being run properly.

The Pension Ombudsman

The Pension Ombudsman is an independent organisation set up by law to deal with pension complaints. They consider complaints about the way personal and occupational pension schemes are run - either 'maladministration' or 'misapplication of scheme rules/regulations'. You can complain about the employer, trustee, manager or administrator of the scheme. They act impartially and the service is free but you must have used the internal dispute procedure at the scheme you are complaining about before asking them to consider your case.

Pension scams

The Pensions Regulator and Financial Conduct Authority have launched a campaign warning people to the danger of pension scams. This can include unsolicited contact from fraudsters who use misleading information to entice pension savers to release their pension early.

Don't let a scammer ruin your retirement - check out how to protect yourself here and here:

  • reject unexpected offers
  • check who you are dealing with
  • don't be rushed or pressured
  • get impartial information and advice.
Last updated: 11 July 2024