Update on major issues | University of Oxford

Update on major issues

This page contains brief information on a number of key issues affecting University staff:

  • Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA)
  • Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Valuation 2017
  • Changes to USS

Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA)

Updated 13 June 2017

Background

The University has operated an EJRA of 30 September before the 68th birthday for all academic and academic-related staff since 2011. The policy was introduced following changes in national legislation which removed the default retirement age. It was agreed that the EJRA would operate for ten years, with an interim review after five years. 

The EJRA is intended to maintain turnover in support of its Aims, which include refreshing the workforce, maintaining opportunities for career progression across the generations, and promoting diversity.

The policy includes an exceptions procedure, under which individuals may apply for employment beyond the EJRA. Applications are considered by the EJRA Committee, with a right of appeal.  

As reported in the Gazette of 25 September 2014, the University’s Appeal Court heard an appeal in 2014 and raised some issues regarding the EJRA policy and procedure. Council approved revisions to the Aims and Procedure to address these issues and take account of case law. 

Review of the EJRA 

working party to review the EJRA was established by Council in July 2015. It began work in Michaelmas 2015 and reported to Council and Congregation in Hilary 2017. Congregation debated the Group’s proposals – including moving the age of the EJRA from 67 to 68 and limiting its coverage to grades 8 and above – in Trinity 2017, and voted to approve them. This was confirmed in a postal ballot. The changes will come into effect on 1 October 2017.

Those with a retirement date of 30 September 2017, including those at grades 6 and 7, will retire as planned. Staff at grades 6 and 7 with an EJRA later than 1 October 2017 will no longer be required to retire on a set date.

Later in Trinity 2017, Congregation debated and voted on a resolution seeking the abolition of the EJRA. The resolution was defeated in the house and in a subsequent postal ballot.

Updated 23 June 2017

The release of decisions in the University’s internal Appeal Court.

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Valuation 2017

Updated 12 May 2017

What is the USS?

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is the University's pension scheme for staff who are on academic and academic-related scales of pay (Grade 6 and over). It is the principal private pension scheme for universities and other higher education institutions in the UK. Oxford University is one of around 360 employers who use this scheme.

What is the remit of the USS Valuation?

Every three years, USS carries out a valuation to analyse the scheme’s funding positon. This legal requirement enables the trustee, Universities UK (representing all employers in the scheme) and University and College Union representatives the opportunity to consider whether the findings indicate that adjustments need to be made to future contribution rates or the scheme’s future benefits – or to both.

What stage are we at with the 2017 Valuation?

USS trustee issued a technical discussion document on the methodology and key inputs for the 2017 Valuation in February 2017 seeking views from employers, via Universities UK, on the range of inputs. 

Following this, the University of Oxford’s USS review working group (members are listed below), considered the discussion document and submitted its response in March 2017. In reaching its views, the review working party sought specialist advice from independent actuaries. The response is available from the right-hand column of this page (Related Documents).

Membership of the University of Oxford USS review working group

  • Mr John Church, Bursar, Pembroke College
  • Professor Gordon Clark, Social Sciences Division
  • Mr Julian Duxfield, Director of Human Resources
  • Professor Richard Hobbs, Medical Sciences Division (Chair)
  • Professor Sam Howison, MPLS Division
  • Professor Jane Humphries, Humanities Division
  • Mr Giles Kerr, Director of Finance
  • Sir David Norgrove, External member of Council

Next steps

The USS has acknowledged receipt of feedback from 46 individual employers, covering 60% of its membership, as well as a formal response on behalf of all scheme employers from Universities UK.

The trustee now plans to agree the final results at a board meeting on 1 June 2017. USS will then commence a formal consultation on the technical provisions of the scheme with Universities UK.

Further reading

The guide to the formal review of USS’s funding position in 2017 provides more information, including videos explaining the valuation process in more detail.

Changes to USS

Updated 14 March 2016

Changes are being made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) in order to address the scheme’s funding deficit.

The changes, which are being introduced in phases from 1 April 2016, include the end of final salary accrual, the introduction of career revalued benefits for all members (on salary up to a threshold), and a new defined contribution section of the scheme. At the same time the amount members pay for those benefits will increase. 

Background
The last triennial valuation of the scheme as at 31 March 2011 showed that USS’s liabilities exceeded its assets by £2.9 billion, and changes to benefits and contribution rates were made as a result. A triennial valuation of the pension scheme’s assets and liabilities has recently been carried out, which confirmed that the funding deficit had deteriorated significantly. The deficit stood at approximately £13bn as at 31 March 2014, based on current benefit arrangements and the USS trustee’s initial proposed assumptions.

Proposal for reform
In January 2015 a joint proposal for reform of the pension scheme was agreed by the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), which comprises equal numbers of representatives of Universities UK (for the employers) and the University and College Union.

Current members and eligible non-members of USS were consulted on the proposed changes between 16 March and 22 May 2015. The 90 responses received from Oxford staff were submitted to USS, together with a commentary written by the University in conjunction with the Oxford UCU. In light of the responses received from employers and members, some modifications were made to the proposals.

Further information
•    Further information about the reform and consultation process is on the USS reform website.
•    For general queries about USS, contact the Pensions Office at USS@admin.ox.ac.uk or on (6)16067.

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