Message from the Director on the pensions dispute
The Courtauld Institute of Art is a small specialist college of the University of London, with a world class reputation for art historical teaching and scholarship, conservation education and practice, and museum curatorship. Our success depends entirely on the outstanding quality of our lecturers, students, curators and professional services colleagues. Everyone here is passionately committed to our discipline and to our students and our public.
A very high proportion of our teaching staff have taken the extremely difficult decision to go on strike, to demonstrate the strength of their feeling about the pensions dispute. I am very aware of, and understand, their concerns and their anger, shared by many other staff across The Courtauld. I am deeply concerned at the damage the ongoing strike is currently having, and the danger of loss of trust between and within different parts of our otherwise very close, supportive and creative community. The Courtauld will not deduct pay for those days that staff take action short of a strike. The pay withheld from those who have taken strike action will be dedicated to student support.
I cannot sufficiently emphasise my own concern about the impact that the strike is having on our students and their learning, and the uncertainty they now face about arrangements for next term and final assessments. I am continuing to work with colleagues to minimise the impact of the strike on students.
I have been asked by our Governing Board, which met yesterday, to share its serious concern about the current situation, about the lack of quality information made available by the negotiating parties in the public domain, and thus about how we, and others nationally, can fully understand the scale and nature of the pension scheme’s financial problem.
The Board was unanimous in expressing the need for negotiations to resume following the rejection of the alternative proposals circulated by the Joint Negotiating Committee on Monday evening. The Courtauld endorsed these proposals, as we welcomed the retention of a meaningful element of defined benefit in the pension scheme, but we recognise that the overall proposal circulated on Monday was not acceptable to the UCU membership.
It is my sincerest hope that further talks now should build on the developments achieved at the Monday meeting and I would welcome further proposals. If the USS consultation with its members must proceed however we do urge, given timetable constraints, that the March and not the January proposals are the basis for consultation going forward.
UK universities, whether large or small, are invaluable national assets. A solution must be found to the current situation, which will both be sustainable and affordable. It must support our ability to attract and retain the very best staff and to provide the very best education and experience possible to our students.
I am writing in these terms to Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of UUK, to convey The Courtauld’s concerns and I strongly urge both parties to return to talks.
Professor Deborah Swallow
Märit Rausing Director