Universities Superannuation Scheme
The Universities Superannuation Scheme is a pension scheme in the United Kingdom with over £38 bn under management. Its members include academic and academic-related staff (including senior administrative staff) in many United Kingdom universities, mainly those that were universities prior to 1992. (Staff in the post-1992 universities are mostly members of the Teachers Pension Scheme.) It is the second largest pension scheme in the UK by fund size. The headquarters of Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited (USS) is based in Liverpool.
In 1911 the President of the Board of Education established an “Advisory Committee on University Grants”. This research formed the basis of the predecessor of USS, the Federated Superannuation System for Universities, which was approved by the Board of Education and membership became compulsory for new appointees post 1 October 1913. The basic plan criteria were:
- the benefit was an annuity or cash payment through an insurance policy maturing at age 60
- optionally, benefits were available for dependants on death in service
- the policy was held in trust by the member’s institution and was transferable to a new institution if required or to an individual on leaving the University service
- members contributed 5% of salary and the employer matched this until 1920 when the employer contribution was increased to 10%
- administrative staff on salaries comparable to academic staff were also eligible to join.
However, perceived drawbacks of the scheme were that it did not link to final pay, access was contingent on a medical examination, there was no guarantee for dependents, little provision for risk benefits, and no indexation of benefits. Hence it compared unfavourably to the defined benefit scheme already enjoyed by school teachers under the School Teachers (Superannuation) Act 1918. From 1958 to 1969 several committees were established to review the present arrangements. The recommendations for a DB scheme were initially rejected by Universities in 1960 and again by a committee in 1964, who concluded it was “…unable to make a clear recommendation in favour of either system ”. The Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), established in 1969, commissioned a report from G. Heywood (FSSU Consulting Actuary) that included a proposed outline for USS. It was to be a one eightieth scheme with a three times annuity lump sum, available to new entrants only, no medical examination was required and pensions would not be increased.
A meeting to discuss the structure of USS took place in Liverpool on the 28 December 1970. The proposal for an independent company was approved by the JCC in November 1971, and endorsed by the CVCP in December 1971. The FSSU Executive Committee was “unenthusiastic”. Drafting of the rules began in 1971, with the 7th draft being agreed in August 1973 and circulated to universities along with an explanatory booklet. The scheme was finally introduced on 1 April 1975. Contributions were 16% of salary, with members paying 6% plus a 2% surcharge for back service.
The scheme formerly owned Telford Shopping Centre in Telford, Shropshire, prior to its sale to Hark Group and Apollo Real Estate. Other commercial properties in which it has been involved include the Grand Arcade development in Cambridge and Forestside Shopping Centre, Belfast. The latter was bought from Sainsbury's for £50 million in 1998 and sold in 2001 for £70 million.
- GR Macdonald, Fifty years of the F.S.S.U. (1965)
- D Logan, The Birth of a Pension Scheme. A History of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (Liverpool University Press 1985)