Bristol prepared to 'make additional contributions to staff pensions', says Professor Brady


Professor Hugh Brady has today said the University of Bristol is prepared to take more risk, make additional contributions to staff pensions, and continue with financially stable defined benefits in a letter to the Chief Executive of the Universities UK (UUK).

In his letter to Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of UUK, Professor Brady said: 'Providing the best possible pension scheme for staff is key to the future success of our University and the sector. We have re-considered our position on a number of key issues in response to the recent strength of view from our staff, Union colleagues and students about the valuation process and the employer proposal. The University of Bristol is prepared to:

  • take more risk than we indicated in our submission to the September 2017 valuation consultation;
  • make additional contributions to staffs' pensions, acknowledging that affordability will be a constraint which is exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding the Government's student fees and funding review; and
  • continue with defined benefits that will be financially sustainable.'

Students received an email today in which the Vice-Chancellor explained he has agreed to meet with colleagues from the local branch of the UCU with regards to the above issues, and to 'discuss our efforts to persuade government to remove any inequity in the system by backing all HE plans, including USS.'

The email, which follows another sent to students on Wednesday this week, added: 'I remain of the view that government backing is possibly the only solution that will deliver the long-term certainty that we all seek.

We will also be holding a number of Open Forums over the next week to talk through these issues with staff and students. Exact dates and times will be shared with you as soon as these have been arranged.'

Bristol UCU has said on Twitter that this is a 'welcome shift' from the Vice-Chancellor, but 'the battle goes on and we must keep up the pressure to support our national negotiators.'

They added: 'We've shown beyond a doubt just how much strength there is in a union, but the solidarity from students and others in and beyond our community has made us even stronger.'

Earlier this week, members from the Student-Staff Solidarity group staged a three day occupation of the fifth floor of Senate House, where the Vice-Chancellor's office is.

After two meetings with the Vice-Chancellor and other members of Senior Management, Brady committed to two immediate actions:

  • Directly lobbying government to address the unfair divergence of the current sector schemes, whereby some are backed by government while USS is not. This difference is one of the key elements that have shaped the risk profile for the USS scheme and which impacts on the possible future pension benefits for staff.
  • Writing to UUK, endorsing calls for an independent, expert advisory board to bring fresh thinking to the September and November valuation in support of a sustainable solution.

The UCU has also sanctioned a further 14 days of strike action if no agreement is made, which is 'designed' to run into exam season.

Featured Image: Evy Tang

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Ed Southgate

former co-Editor in Chief 2018-2019 | former Editor of Epigram Comment 2017-2018 | UoB English student 2016-19 | Twitter: @ed_southgate