As you know from recent communications about the ongoing strike action over pensions, I have been urging UUK and UCU to return to the negotiating table so that a resolution to this dispute can be found as soon as possible. I want to acknowledge that I very much welcome the talks that are due to get underway today between UUK and UCU, mediated by the conciliation service ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).
I understand and share the deep concern about the future of the USS pension scheme and of members’ pensions. Pension security is an important factor in our ability to attract and retain staff here at The Courtauld and across higher education in the UK.
The situation is very complicated and involves a difficult balance between payments into a pensions scheme, risk assessment (at several levels but critically the risk overseen by the Pension Regulator) and long term sustainability (both of the scheme and of HE institutions themselves). As we said in our response to the earlier consultation, we would prefer a system with defined benefit, but only if this can be made affordable and sustainable for future generations. The Courtauld understands that higher employer contributions may be necessary, and that this would entail careful consideration of our finances and how we balance our economy. A resolution needs to be determined at a national level. As Director, I am committed to working with all those involved to resolve this dispute, and to finding a resolution that meets the expectations of students, recognises the concerns of staff, and ensures the sustainability of The Courtauld.
We are all concerned about the disruption to students’ learning, and I greatly appreciate all that everyone is doing to minimise this. I share the hope of staff and students that the talks starting today will lead to a rapid resolution to the dispute.