USS Pension Justice: We earned it.

After 69 days total of industrial action following the needless pension cuts which were forced through by our employers two years ago members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will see their benefits restored as of Monday 1 April 2024.

The key points of the settlement are that

  • the USS accrual rate be restored from 1/85 back to 1/75
  • the defined benefit threshold will lift from £41k back to over £70k
  • the hard inflation cap of 2.5% has been removed
  • £900m has been set aside for a one-off payment to make good losses which members have already suffered

UCU recommend voting YES to pension benefit recovery proposals

In 2022 our employers forced through cuts to the USS pension scheme using a very dubious valuation conducted in 2020 at the height of the covid pandemic. These cuts would have led to a reduction of guaranteed income in retirement of up to 35%. We were told at the time that it absolutely necessary to maintain the long term viability of the the scheme and the decision could not be reversed.

Thanks to members taking action to oppose these cuts our employers have agreed to restore benefits and recover what has been lost.

Negotiators for UCU and our employers’ body Universities UK (UUK) have issued a joint statement with a plan for pension full benefit restoration back to pre-April 2022 levels by 1 April 2024. The plan should also see a cut in member contribution rates plus a flat rate payment for recovery of losses between 2022 and 2024. The trustees of the scheme have calculated that this is sustainable for at least the next two valuation cycles (6 years).

UCU consultation on RECOVERY OF LOST BENEFITS 2022-24

UCU members are now being consulted on the proposals for benefit recovery i.e. what was lost in the meantime. The consultation closes at noon on Friday 20 October. Please check your inbox for your unique online voting link. This will describe in detail what you are voting on. The higher education committee (HEC) is recommending that members vote YES (agree) to accept.

The most recent reminder containing the vote to link was sent from on 12 October 2023 with UCU member consultation on recovery of USS benefits in the subject line.

USS Employer consultation on RESTORATION OF BENEFITS

A separate USS member consultation has been launched by USS on the improvement of benefits back to pre-April 2022 levels. This will close on 24 November 2023 and UCU are encouraging members to respond as soon as possible. It is still important that you make your views about the proposed improvements known.

If you have not already responded please check for an email from Staff Update at Heriot-Watt which contains comprehensive information about the proposed changes and a link to the Employer Consultation Website. The email from was sent on 15 September 2023. The subject line is Notice of statutory consultation on behalf of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Please contact if you have not received yours.

Pay and working conditions

We are very close to achieving a result in a pension dispute but we still have a long way to go on fair pay and working condition. Don’t forget to vote Yes to save higher education in the ballot to renew our mandate for further action so that we can put pressure on our employers to come back to the negotiating table. If you haven’t received your ballot paper please request a replacement using the form at before midnight on Sunday 29 October.


Emergency Members’ Meeting 19 September 2023

We will be holding and online Emergency Members’ Meeting via Zoom at 4.00pm on Tuesday 19 September 2023 to consult branch members about next week’s strike action over pay and working conditions as requested by UCU national.

Please check your inbox for the link to the meeting.

We will try to keep it short with a brief introduction from the branch committee that sets out the current position with all the relevant information. Make no mistake, our employers and UCEA are continuing to try and sit this out with little regard for staff and student welfare, or academic standards. After this there will be an opportunity for questions, clarification, and debate. We will move to voting as close to 4.30pm as possible.

After any votes there will be some time for a more general discussion on how to progress the dispute both locally and nationally, and what we might want to feed back to UCU national.

There will be an opportunity to raise and discuss other issues relating to working at HWU under AOB at the end of the meeting.

It is very short notice but it is very important that you attend and have your say at a quorate meeting. Please attend if at all possible.

MAB withdrawn and new strike days announced

Following a consultative e-ballot with the membership UCU national have announced that Marking and Assessment Boycott has been withdrawn as of 6 September 2023.

With the MAB called off members can resume marking duties and the setting of assessments but only as and when it fits in around other demands at work. If your manager or anyone else at work tries to pressure you into doing work immediately or in an unrealistic time frame given other jobs, please contact your local rep.

School reps will be meeting with mangers to discuss which marking is and is not required, the order in which it will be done and how it is fit around other work in what is already a very bus time of year. We are still working ASOS and no-one should be working beyond their contracted hours.

This will be the first time that our employers have not returned wages in return for marking.

If you have queries about the number of days deducted please get in touch with your local rep. That is has been so difficult to implement highlights that our employer should not have applied such a draconian and punitive policy, deducting far in excess of the hours required. It also demonstrates the ongoing inability of the ERP and Finance to deliver the most basic of functionality.

For those who have been deducted we have a local hardship fund to top up payments from the national fighting fund. If you need to claim, please do.

There is also scope for legal action to recover wages on the basis that they have been deducted unfairly. UCU have circulated further information on the legal action that can be taken to challenge unfair MAB deductions and claims have already started at other branches. Members affected are asked to use this proforma UCU – ASOS/MAB – Questionnaire (member login required).

Strike days

Our employers have been notified of 5 full days of strike action to take place between 25 and 29 September 2023.

We deserve a fair wage, secure employment, and an end to pay gaps. Our members have shown great resilience, perseverance, and courage throughout this dispute. It is bitterly disappointing that UCEA has decided to sit this out regardless of the consequences for staff, students, and academic standards. We should not let the employers get away with this.

A ballot to secure a fresh mandate to continue the dispute and take the fight to the employer will follow.


Update on Save university pensions, and save the planet: We’ve settled

Save university pensions, and save the planet is a crowdfunded legal action separate from the main UCU pension dispute. It may be of interest to members and non-members who are in the USS scheme. Updates published on behalf of the team at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

First of all, we are so grateful once more for your support. This has been the biggest crowdfund in UK history according to CrowdJustice, and we have pushed UUK to announce their reversal of the 2022 pension cuts. We didn’t win in the Court of Appeal, and so on Monday we decided to settle the USS directors’ legal costs. There were solid legal grounds for appealing the decision to the Supreme Court. However, we have achieved most of our aims – getting your pension back and shifting the USS’s climate policy – we couldn’t have done it without you! Six more things:

(1) Call for supporters

We’d love to invite everyone for a Zoom call to answer all questions and to thank you in person at 2pm Wednesday, 2nd August. Zoom link here.

(2) The USS Directors’ Pyrrhic victory

The USS directors have a victory that would make Phyrrus chortle. The judgment itself dismissed our appeal on procedural grounds, but said that a previously untested “beneficiary derivative claim” may be used to sue directors for breach of duty in a pension trust: see paras [78]-[90]. This was an unprecedented announcement. So, there were good grounds for us to appeal, but overall it was better for everyone to settle and help the directors focus on their future. The bottom line is that the USS directors will now know, and should be advised, that if they breach their duties, they can be sued personally – including for damages. If, in future, the directors do breach their duties, we will be in touch!

(3) A recap

To recap the reasons that your help and support have mattered so much are that since bringing the case:

  1. The USS directors have entirely reversed their position for the 2023 valuation.
    • They are now reporting a £7.4bn surplus.
    • They reduced prudence (as we said they should in our 2021 letter),
    • They allowed for greater mortality (as we said they should in 2021),
    • They have updated asset values and made other changes.
  2. USS could augment members’ benefits to reverse the unnecessary losses they imposed on members between April 2022 and April 2024.
  3. Future accrual of defined benefits could be restored from April 2024.
  4. The architect of these changes and USS CEO has announced his resignation.

Our litigation, which thousands of university staff and USS members have supported, has likely had a very substantial impact on the directors’ decisions, and is likely to affect their decisions in future.

(4) Change worth £8000 per member + a potential pay rise

If members’ 2022-2024 benefits are augmented, this could be worth £1.5bn (on average £8000 for each USS member). In the medium term, reversing the April 2022 cuts for future accrual will be worth many billions more. More than this, thousands of UK university staff could now get a pay rise – university accountants are (anecdotally) saying employee contributions could fall from 9.8% to 8%, and employer contributions down from 21.6% to 18% – the level they were at in 2019.

(5) Climate damage

We have already seen UUK say that it wants USS to commit to examining divestment. We fully expect USS’s position on climate change and fossil fuels to evolve and note that the judgment explicitly points to the possibility of future action against the trust fund being possible – as well as against directors personally for their future conduct.

(6) Governance reform

This legal action clearly demonstrates how badly the governance of the USS has failed and how little confidence USS members have that the USS directors were acting in their interests. We should not have to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to hold the directors to account. The USS’s rules need to be changed to allow members a say in how their scheme is run. Universities and UCU urgently need to reform the governance of the scheme so it can begin to recover members’ trust. This legal action is the first step in that process, which needs to start ASAP.

Once more, we are incredibly grateful for the over 12,000 donations and the amazing support we’ve had from people across the UK. We are also enormously grateful to our outstanding legal team, David Grant KC, Philip Steer, Gus Baker, Meriel Hodgson-Teall, Richard Meeran, Georgia Rycroft and the team at Leigh Day, and also Dr Thomas Da Vieira Costa and Dr Lindsey Pike for their fantastic work in research and communications. This case has been hugely complex, and everyone has handled it brilliantly.

We would be delighted to meet with UCU branches or other groups to explain the outcome of the hearing and the next steps, which will not, you will be relieved to know, involve asking for more money.

Best wishes,
Neil and Ewan

Court of Appeal to decide on landmark pension case

Save university pensions, and save the planet is a crowdfunded legal action separate from the main UCU pension dispute. It may be of interest to members and non-members who are in the USS scheme. Updates published on behalf of the team at

Dear Friends and Colleague,

We are all making history together!. It took up most of last week, and we went overtime, but the Court of Appeal heard our landmark case against the USS directors, and now will deliberate for a judgment. We are determined that the USS directors must answer for their conduct, in cutting the pension (when there was never a deficit), and in placing their pro-fossil fuel values over members’ views, even when it’s a massive risk of financial harm to our future.

We still absolutely need to hit our funding target, so please visit the CrowdJustice site, and consider giving £10 – or the average pledge of £40. We’ve worked our socks, shoes, and shoelaces off because we believe you have the absolute right to social security and a living planet, and we’re so grateful for your support, and that of all university branches. With everyone’s help, we’re nearly there, so please spare the cost of a sandwich or coffee for all of your colleagues’ welfare.

Main arguments in the Court of Appeal

You can watch the full 2 and a half days on YouTube, and lots more will be written soon, but the very basic points are:

  • we showed how the very purpose of the company is to provide benefits “solely or primarily for the benefit of university teachers or other staff of comparable status” (article 71 of USS Ltd) and so under the Companies Act 2006 s 172(2) the directors must act for purposes directed to the benefit of university staff. That is why beneficiaries have standing in a common law derivative claim;
  • all our claims were to remedy serious injustices: the directors were not protecting university staff benefits when they set a zero-growth assumption for 30 years, predicted deficits, and drove cuts, and no it did not matter that they paid actuaries to go along with that. The cuts were discriminatory and USS directors should have cut costs, not the pension, even if there had been a deficit (which there never was);
  • our fossil fuel divestment claim was grounded in the serious risk to the fund, and despite USS ago coming up with a fossil fuel strategy 20 years ago, nothing was done to divest. The directors have utterly failed beneficiaries, ignored their wishes, and showed bog-standard, business-as-usual complacency all along;
  • the court vigorously questioned everything in our submissions, and the other side’s main argument was “nothing to see here”. USS directors had actuaries to sign off all their valuations, there just was no evidence of discrimination, costs at USS were normal, and there was no evidence that fossil fuels really do carry risks – USS was actually at the forefront of climate policy. Who would’ve thought!

So, the hearing was hotly contested, and the judges are left with a difficult set of decisions. But we should all be absolutely optimistic because what we have achieved is phenomenal already. We:

  1. shone a torch on the directors’ wrongdoing, that the whole university sector, including VCs and managers in every university could see, and the USS directors could not squirm away from with dodgy, condescending PR;
  2. after we started, USS changed its growth assumptions (from 0.0% to 0.29% and now to 1.8% above CPI inflation for 30 years) and started reporting surpluses;
  3. the failed “CEO” Bill Galvin announced his resignation *sad face*;
  4. with Galvin gone, when we got leave to the Court of Appeal, the USS directors pronounced they would reverse the cuts;
  5. the USS press releases said they would “examine” divesting fossil fuels.

Sounds like we already won, but we need a precedent that protects everyone, and our retirement on a living planet.

Win or lose, what might happen? Whoever prevails, there could very well be an appeal. If we win, or if they win, either side could appeal the judgment to the UK Supreme Court. Furthermore, because our claims on fossil fuels are grounded in human rights, we could apply to the European Court of Human Rights, contending (if we lost) that the UK justice system fails to protect the right to life (article 2) if it fails to interpret directors’ duties in a way that takes account of what is needed under the Paris Agreement to stop the planet burning. In short, the directors must pay regard to financial risks on the assumption that international law will be complied with (not violated), and that means everyone cutting toxic emissions by 45% by 2030, and 100% by 2050. That will destroy fossil fuel profits, and the courts must understand that. Whatever happens, we will use every option available to hold the failed USS directors to account, drive reform, protect your social security, and save our planet.

So please visit the CrowdJustice site again, and thanks so much for everything you do to keep our universities alive!

Best wishes, Ewan and Neil

Save university pensions, and save the planet – we are going to court

Save university pensions, and save the planet is a crowdfunded legal action separate from the main UCU pension dispute. It may be of interest to members and non-members who are in the USS scheme. Updates published on behalf of the team at

Dear Friends and Colleagues

We’ve taken a big decision – we’re going to the Court of Appeal no matter what on 13 of June – and that’s why we need your help more than ever!

We’re so close to our fundraising target – and although this is an action that we all share in – over 10,000 donors, over 25 university branches, and thousands more who supported through publicity and pickets – Ewan and Neil are the only two claimants on the hook for costs if we lose. Our fund target is our costs, plus the far bigger estimated cost of rip-off lawyers that the USS directors hired to cover up their abuse of power, and greenwash their toxic addiction to gas, oil and coal. But even though we’re only 90% of the way in fundraising, we are 100% going through with it. We are determined, and you deserve a fair pension and a living planet.

So, please help us by giving another £10 – the price of a sandwich and a coffee these days – and ask your university branch to send out an email to all staff asking for support.

And don’t buy the nonsense PR: we’ve got USS and UUK to announce that the cuts can be reversed, together, by using every tool in the box: that’s our legal action suing the directors personally, and our collective solidarity. The cuts aren’t being reversed because the markets improved, or university employers suddenly became nice, or any of them became financially literate. They announced they could reverse the cuts just after we got leave to go to the Court of Appeal, and now they’re scrambling to repeat the same as their sorry record of failure is being hauled before the Court of Appeal.

And don’t buy the line that our case doesn’t matter at UCU Congress – the officials in charge need to follow the rulebook and the NEC and implement motions L5, and HE18 if it passes, to finance the case (a few thousand more for the Court of Appeal, and £350k if we need to go to the UK Supreme Court) or even to help us with publicity with a few emails or even some tweets. (You’d think that Twitter had suddenly become the union’s least favourite medium!) UCU accounts from last year showed £31 million cash in the bank, the risks are limited to what we quoted, this action is worth billions to us all, and this is action is worth £200k each for a typical member. We know you see this, and that’s another reason we’re so grateful for everything we’ve all done together. We’ve almost got the cuts reversed even without winning, and now we need to close the deal.

So please keep helping and publicising our case: give £10, ask your branch to mail all members, and give us a plug on social media @PensionsPlanet on Twitter. As we get closer to the date we expect the media coverage to ramp up. And we won’t stop until we hold the failed USS directors to account to the law’s fullest extent, and stop pension and climate damage with a credible plan to divest fossil fuels and decarbonise every company.

Your voice matters and together we will win!

Best wishes, Ewan and Neil

Save university pensions, and save the planet

Save university pensions, and save the planet is a crowdfunded legal action separate from the main UCU pension dispute. It may be of interest to members and non-members who are in the USS scheme. Updates published on behalf of the team at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We got solicitors! Probably the best firm in the UK for business and human rights, Leigh Day, is joining our legal team on a no-win-no-fee basis. Together we are going to the Court of Appeal on 13 June to win back our pension and our right to life in a clean environment. We must hold the USS directors personally accountable for the damage they’ve caused to our pensions and the planet, and together we will close the deal and win!

To do this, we urgently need your support to raise the remaining funds for the hearing! We’ve raised 75% of the funds we need. Please:

  • Give £10 or £20 CrowdJustice so we reach our funding target.
  • Share the crowdfunding page with your colleagues and ask your UCU branch to email all their members asking for support!

Together, we can finish the crowdfund and head to the Court of Appeal!

Thank you so much for your hard work and support. Even if employers don’t, even if fund managers don’t, and this government doesn’t, we know how much you do every day to hold UK higher education together. We know that your work matters, and you deserve fair pay, a fair pension, and a living planet.

Best wishes,
Ewan and Neil

We “note” the pension’s not yet saved!

Update on Save university pensions, and save the planet. This is a crowdfunded legal action separate from the UCU pension dispute. It may be of interest to members and non-members who are in the USS scheme. Updates published on behalf of the team at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As you’ll have seen, UCU members just voted by 85% to “note” the statement between UUK and UCU on restoring pension benefits and reducing contributions (by how much, we do not yet know!).

Of course, we know that the reason why USS directors suddenly started predicting surpluses (not nonsense deficits), why they changed the pension asset growth assumption from 0.0% above inflation to 0.29%, and now 1.8% above inflation for 30 years (to get those surpluses), why the failed CEO Bill Galvin resigned, and why they say they could restore benefits, is that we have sued them for their catastrophic failure. It’s great that UUK and UCU have done a joint statement, but we’re not yet done with the USS directors.

The USS directors didn’t suddenly have a change of heart. They didn’t suddenly say, “Eureka – there is no deficit”! They didn’t suddenly find the markets had improved after the Truss mini-budget, after the UK’s growth outlook was worse than Russia, or after the USS itself lost £450m in Russian investments following Putin’s criminal war on Ukraine.

No, we sued them. And we got leave to go to the Court of Appeal. Even though we did not win in the High Court, they know we’ve shone a torch on them. This very public pressure, the prospect of personal responsibility for the first time in the directors’ careers, this case that all the university employers could see, forced them to change. Together with everyone’s work, everyone’s solidarity, and everyone being on picket lines, your contribution to this court case is making a difference. Remember, the UCU Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) and the UCU National Executive Committee (NEC) and dozens of UCU branches across the UK have agreed to support our case. However, the General Secretary has refused to do this, and so far, despite what was agreed at Conference and the NEC’s instructions, UCU national has not funded or publicised our case.

We still need to get a legally binding agreement on USS. UCU and UUK have agreed to restore benefits if it can be done “sustainably”. They have agreed to “explore” restoring pension benefits needlessly cut in April 2022. The USS directors cannot be forced to act or even be removed by UUK or UCU. The USS directors changed the USS Ltd constitution so that the only people who can remove existing board members are the board members themselves! Therefore it is absolutely essential that we take the case to the Court of Appeal to get the best possible, legally binding USS agreement.

So we still need to go to the Court of Appeal. Help us:

  • raise the final £120k – 90% of donations, have been from small contributions;
  • ask your branch for Ewan and Neil to come to a special or general meeting to talk about the case;
  • ask your branch to circulate a call for donations to all members (even if the General Secretary won’t listen to the NEC and HESC);
  • by considering giving another £15 – if everyone who’s already donated gave again, we’d make what we need;
  • get in touch if you have more ideas for fundraising, especially if you have contacts at environmental groups that could be interested in the case for divesting fossil fuels, and ending climate risk.

Thanks once again for all your help!

Best wishes,
Ewan and Neil

USS legal action crowdfund update

Note: This is a crowdfunded legal action separate from the UCU pension dispute. It may be of interest to members and non-members who are in the USS scheme. Updates published on behalf of the team at

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for supporting the USS campaign.

We’re making excellent progress with the crowdfund and are about 65% of the way there. To finish this, we need your help! Almost 90% of the funding for the case has come from almost 10,000 donations from members, £10, £20, or £50 from individual members. We need to wrap up the fundraising so that we can focus on the legal arguments.

Please support the case by:

UUK, UCU, and USS negotiations – this case is still essential

Do the recent statements from UUK and UCU, which note the possibility of benefit restoration, mean we don’t need to go to the Court of Appeal? No, taking the case to the Court of Appeal is still essential. These statements were made and are likely only possible because of the USS legal action.

A judgement from the Court of Appeal would demonstrate that the USS directors, who run the scheme on our behalf, must act within the law and fulfil their legal obligations to members. If the case is not heard in the Court of Appeal, the directors will conclude that they are unlikely to face any meaningful legal challenge from members. They, and TPR are likely to return to their pre-2021 strategy of ramping up scheme costs to close the DB scheme. The only way to prevent this is by hearing the case in the Court of Appeal.

Please support the case with whatever you can at, so we can win in the Court of Appeal.

As ever, please let me know if you’d rather not receive further emails.

All the best,
Neil, Ewan and the rest of the team