Protesters stood outside the entrance of the College from 12pm to 2pm todayRosie Bradbury

Around a dozen Cambridge academics and staff rallied outside Trinity College’s Great Gate this afternoon, in protest of the College’s decision to exit the national pensions scheme for higher education employees announced last week, dubbed ‘Trexit’.

Protesters, several wearing their Cambridge gowns, carried signs saying, “Save USS”, “Dissolve this college”, and “Stop Trexit”.

Academics handed out leaflets to students and passersby detailing Trinity's decisionRosie Bradbury

The protest today comes in wake of increased local and national pressure on Trinity, after Varsity revealed earlier in May that the Council had voted to exit the scheme. Yesterday, the general secretary-elect of the University and College Union (UCU), Jo Grady, published a letter sent to the fellowship of the college calling on them to call a meeting to attempt to overturn the College’s decision to exit.

In her letter, she said: “[T]he Council’s decision has become a matter of national rather than local significance. You deserve to know exactly what is at stake”.

Porters and College members watched the protest from inside the groundsRosie Bradbury

Over 270 Cambridge academics and staff have now signed an open letter pledging to withhold their labour in both a teaching and research capacity from the college – the decision to exit is considered by many as marking a betrayal to the higher education sector.

University Councillor Dr Jason Scott-Warren, who organised the protest, described the academic boycott as “quite a significant mobilisation”, and noted the “very compressed timescale” of Trinity’s decision, adding: “we’ve all been a bit taken by surprise”, that “we didn’t really think it would happen”.

Varsity reported earlier this month that a senior USS official told employers that the scheme will be placed on ‘negative watch’ following Trinity’s exit, and that if a second sizable employer exits the scheme, that its rating of financial stability could be downgraded from ‘strong’ to ‘tending to strong’. The exit is estimated to cost the college £30m — they have also said that a private pensions scheme has been set up for College staff to replace their USS pension.

Professor Mary Laven, a fellow of Jesus College and a professor of Early Modern History, spoke to Varsity at the rally on Trinity’s decision given the staff strikes in lent term last year, commenting: “After the struggles of last year, it’s absolutely crass of them to pull out... [The decision] fails to take into account the views of many members of the college – students and fellows, and no doubt, staff”.

Mountain View

Read Varsity’s report on Trinity decision to exit USS

In the college’s statement on the decision to withdraw, Trinity Senior Bursar Rory Landman commented: “This is not a decision taken lightly by the College Council. Following substantial legal and actuarial advice, and bearing in mind our responsibilities as Charity Trustees of Trinity, we believe leaving USS is in the best interests of the College. This decision also helps to ensure Trinity’s continued and substantial financial support to the whole of Collegiate Cambridge.”

Dr Sheila Watts, another academic at the protest and a University Lecturer in MML, said: “I don’t want not to supervise Trinity students – I’ve said that I won’t supervise Trinity students, but I’ve had great Trinity students, I’ve been supervising them for years”.

“I think they [Trinity] are using their privilege and wealth as a bit of a sledgehammer”, she added.