Demonstrations against the proposed changes have continued over recent weeksLouis Ashworth

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) has today floated the possibility of another 14 days of strikes, designed to hit the exam and assessment period this summer, should the ongoing pensions dispute not reach a resolution in the near future.

Sanctioned by the Union’s higher education committee (HEC), 65 institutions would be affected by the additional industrial action, which would take place between April and June.

UCU members are currently striking over planned changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The proposed changes would end the defined benefit pension schemes for university staff incomes under £5500, replacing them with defined contribution pension schemes.  Whilst defined benefit schemes offer a guaranteed income upon retirement, the value of defined contribution schemes depends on returns from underlying investments in the stock market. UCU claims that this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.

Strike action was prompted following a breakdown in talks between Universities UK (UUK) and UCU. Last week both sides resumed talks through the conciliation service Acas.  

UCU made the announcement through their website , one day after using their Twitter to praise the “constructive engagement on the challenging issues in the dispute” as part of their ongoing talks.

In post on their website, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said that the potential strike action was a “necessary precaution against the failure of talks to deliver an acceptable settlement.” She added that the union “would prefer dialogue” and “UCU is serious about reaching an agreement”. In their post, the UCU said they now planned to “gather information on when the 14 days of action would be the most effective at different universities”.


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The possibility of strike action during exams had been suggested previously by UCU. Their mandate to strike runs until July, and they had previously announced a March 2nd meeting as an opportunity to finalise plans, including the possibility of future strike action.

UCU’s announcement comes in the same week that University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope called on the University to take greater risks and costs for pension schemes. Earlier this week, the Oxford Vice-Chancellor, Louise Richardson, announced that she would no longer support the planned USS changes.

Varsity has contacted the University and Cambridge UCU for comment

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