Open Letter from University of York Retired Staff to the Vice Chancellor regarding the current USS dispute

Open Letter to Koen Lamberts,

Vice Chancellor

University of York and

Chair of the Employers Pensions Forum for Higher Education



York, 26 February 2018


Dear Koen,

We are writing to you as retired (or semi-retired) academic staff members of the University of York to express our serious concerns about the recent proposal to wind up the existing defined-benefit section of the USS scheme and replace it by an entirely defined-contribution scheme, thus putting much more of the risk on individual members of USS and likely resulting in a several thousands of pounds per annum reduction in the value of the future pensions of our younger ex-colleagues.

While we ourselves would be insulated from any of the negative consequences of this proposed change, we are seriously concerned at the plight of our younger colleagues and fellow members of USS, both out of a sense of solidarity with them and also because we fear that such a worsening in the terms and conditions of employment of UK universities would seriously damage their ability to continue to attract the high-quality staff needed for the sector to continue to thrive.

All of us fully understand and support the last-resort industrial action by non-retired members of UCU to defend their pensions and we very much hope that the employers will reconsider their position and negotiate an agreement acceptable to staff.

As retired members of USS, we all received a leaflet from USS – mailed out on 12 October 2017 –entitled “In the news – USS’s 2017 valuation” (the full leaflet is appended to this letter) which assured us that

“… the USS does not have a £17.5 billion funding deficit.   … the trustee believes there is a deficit of just over £5bn – which would mean the scheme is 92% funded.     …  The plan in place to recover this over time is well within the affordable means of the scheme’s 350-plus participating employers, including the oldest and most prestigious universities in the UK.”

Thus we do not understand why the “plan in place” referred to in the USS leaflet mentioned above (which presumably was a plan to save the defined benefit section) cannot be implemented.  (See also the blog of Warwick economist Dennis Leech at and also the links listed in the reply by LSE philosopher Michael Otsuka on 3 August 2017 to your own 2 August 2017 post at; and see also this and this.)

We urge you to reconsider your own position and to add your voice to that of Stuart Croft (Vice Chancellor of Warwick University who (see )  has questioned the current valuation methodology and has also proposed that the employers lobby for government backing for the pension scheme to continue in its present form.


Yours sincerely,


Roy Chantrell (Prof., Physics)

John Fountain (Emeritus Prof., Mathematics)

Bernard Kay (Emeritus Prof., Mathematics)

Geoff Pert FRS (Emeritus Prof., Physics)

Bill Sheils (Emeritus Prof., History)

Tony Sudbery (Emeritus Prof., Mathematics)

Bill Trythall (Former Lecturer, History)

Andy Tudor (Emeritus Prof., Theatre Film and TV)

Maurice Dodson (Emeritus Prof., Mathematics)

(If you are a former member of staff of the University of York and wish to add your name here, please send an email to with your name and former department and position held.)