Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the Staff Open Meeting yesterday (12 March 2018).
In the session I talked about the current pensions challenge as well as the rapidly changing landscape in higher education. These are difficult and unprecedented times, and the depth of feeling and concern about the impact the dispute is having on colleagues was evident. If you weren’t able to make the meeting, you can watch a recording on the intranet
A number of helpful points were raised in the meeting and I agreed to consider these with senior colleagues. As a result, we will be spreading pay deductions for striking over three months, and HR will implement this as soon as possible.
Another suggestion was made in relation to improvements to our sabbatical scheme for women academics returning to work; this is being reviewed as part of our new Equality and Diversity Action Plan.
Shortly after the Open Meeting, we learnt the UUK-UCU talks, facilitated by ACAS, had resulted in an agreement on a revised USS pension benefit reform proposal, subject to consultation by both parties and subsequent agreement at the USS Joint Negotiating Committee. Details of the proposal are available here
Today, I have indicated our acceptance of the proposal and I am hopeful that UCU will agree to suspend industrial action from Wednesday this week. The proposal includes guidance, agreed by UUK and UCU, on rescheduling teaching and minimising the impact on Graduate Teaching Assistants.
There is still a lot of work to do to ensure the long-term sustainability of USS, but the current interim proposal gives all parties time to look at the issues of scheme valuation and risk sharing, over the next three years.
In the next few months, our priority is to support our students during the remainder of this academic year. Colleagues in academic departments and professional services have key roles to play as we enter revision and exam season. Also, we shall need to start to prepare for the new regulatory regime that starts when the Office for Students takes over from HEFCE in April. As I set out in my presentation at the Open Meeting, this change will have significant implications for how we generate income and spend our resources.This is something we will all have to work on together, and I'll be talking to you more to get your ideas on how we can achieve this.
Professor Paul Layzell