Monday, 31 July 2017

Snouts in the universities pension trough

The cushiest job in the UK today is in a university. No longer need one be gifted academically or have skills as a scholar or teacher; any mediocre administrator who can talk the talk can get in to a university staffroom these days. One has to publish, of course, but given the plethora of niche academic journals with tiny circulations but eye watering costs you can write pretty much academically worthless and semi-literate garbage in order to accumulate a publications list. No-one will read it. It doesn't matter. Then there's the pension; 1/75th of salary and a lump sum of 3/75ths of salary for each year of service. With employee contributions capped at 8% and the university paying 18%. For the new Vice-Chancellor of the Agricultural University of Steeple Bumstead on a salary of £450,000 a year, that 18% employer contribution is worth an extra £81,000 a year. 

Of course, as the FT reports, the next best job to being a Vice-Chancellor is to be a member of the 8-man University Pension Scheme Executive Committee; they were paid an average of £488,000 each in 2016/17. Plus, no doubt, the pension benefits. 

There's only one problem with this academic cornucopia, under which VCs have grown fat as butter and as rich as pre-reformation abbots and even the Head of the School of Pig Farrowing at Steeple Bumstead earns more than the Prime Minister. We can't afford it. The pension fund has assets of £60bn but liabilities of £77.5bn. Something needs to be done. 

Part of the problem is that each participating institution doesn't have to balance its books; Steeple Bumstead can award its teaching staff the most outrageous salaries, salaries that accumulate pension liabilities way beyond the institution's own contributions and share, but the scheme as a whole must meet the costs. The universities can't increase student fees any further, as this will kill the goose. And all those podgy-fingered vice chancellors feasting at their high tables on fine foods and wines won't take a cut in their wedge. So either the taxpayer bails the broke USS out or the pension fund cuts its benefits .... and you can probably see which way this is going. 

Glynis Breakwell, Bath Uni VC on a wedge of £451,000. Not sure who the bloke is.

17 comments:

formertory said...

...the Government pays 18%....

Errr, shurely shome mishtake? That would be the taxpayer, who also indemnifies the whole foetid pile against pension risk of all kinds. Like every public sector scheme I can think of.

The fact that teachers, nurses, doctors, police, firemen and the rest see themselves as hard-done-by in part because they have no understanding whatever of the generosity of their emoluments (while they're all on stress leave for a year) is laughable. Or would be, were it not crippling the rest of us.

formertory said...

Oh, and by the way; the pension scheme liabilities are illusory. It's an actuarial calculation that, with annuity rates at an all time low, then if all the liabilities fell due eventually there wouldn't be enough money in the pot. But watch the deficit disappear like snow off a dike (can I say that?) when Government Actuary rates rise in the future.

In the meantime, snorfle, grunt, it's a great excuse to bung more taxpayers' money in the trough to "cover the deficit". Any you can bet the Vice Chancellor's well-padded arse that when the fund's in surplus, they won't be giving any back!

Anonymous said...

I object to these remarks. I taught for fifty years in Further and Higher Education and worked bloody hard. The pay was never generous and nor is the pension.

No doubt the top administrators are lavishly paid, as they are in any business, but the vast mass of workers are not.

Of course there are a few layabouts and malingerers, but they are a very small minority.

Raedwald said...

Anon - I have nothing but respect and regard for nearly all of my own tutors, both first and second degrees, whom I suspect are (were) your peers. Today there's a different breed. They feel entitled, they scorn real scholarship for money, value mediocrity and simply can't write or teach adequately. Things have changed much in this century.

Dave_G said...


Given they are all part of the concerted effort to dumb down the population and, inevitably, self-educated to Common Purpose level, this comes as no surprise.

Local Government is but an envious step behind.

rapscallion said...

"The fact that teachers, nurses, doctors, police, firemen and the rest see themselves as hard-done-by in part because they have no understanding whatever of the generosity of their emoluments (while they're all on stress leave for a year) is laughable."

Steady on sunshine. It's lucky you didn't say that to my face or else you'd be picking your teeth up off the deck. After 23 years service in the RN (submarine service since you ask), and loss of hearing, I'm rather struggling to see why you are bitching about me getting a huge £12,000 pa. If I ever become unemployed I cannot claim unemployment benefit because I have a "pension"

Radders has a point vis-a-vis the Universities, but the rank and file who have to pick up the pieces, like nurses, firefighters and members of the Armed Forces earn every f*cking penny they get.

As we used to say in the submarine service "Shut and clip your lip"

Elby the Beserk said...

anonymous. You missed out. The figures show clearly that pensions in academia are wildly out of control.

And the hit on public sector pensions is now some £1.5 trillion - pretty much the same as, and therefore doubling, the national debt. Our kids, grandkids and their kids will be paying for this.

Quod erat demonstrandum, you might say.

Raedwald said...

Agree. The CO of the new Queen Elizabeth as a four-striper is on a basic wedge of £73k - £84k for managing a £3bn asset with up to 40 aircraft, 680 crew plus air side personnel. About a fifth of a Vice Chancellor's wedge for managing buildings worth perhaps a single aircraft and maybe 150 staff.

Service pensions are not generous enough by any measure.

Dave_G said...


Radders,

not sure the answer is to ramp up less generous service pensions to match those of academia when the proper answer would be to slash the academia pensions to the levels of those in Service.

After working for 40 years in the private sector (the last 18 years being self employed) I'd kill for the 'meagre' £12k someone is agitated about.

Fortunately I'm mortgage-free. That's where I made MY investment.

Anonymous said...

Pay-offs for the parasitical class was, and still is, for full compliance and total devotion to the New Labour, New Britain project: the "change Britain forever" secret agenda with no mandate. That's what it amounts to and you can chart the double digit salary increases from '97 onwards. Just over half of my Council Tax goes on staff pay and pensions.

Anyway.

Passchendaele

At 3:50am one hundred years ago today the Battle of Pilckem Ridge began with an attack on the Ghelveult Plateau by II Corps. Holding the ground to the south were the German Stellungsdivisionen and Eingreif divisions. Four thousand yards into the attack the Group Ypres counter-attacked and drove the three British brigades back to the Black line. British losses were 70 per cent. The Third Battle of Ypres had begun.

Steve

Mr Ecks said...


As for the pension shortfall purge all leftist teachers and Admin crew out of Unis without a penny compo and their pensions confiscated.

That would solve the problem and leave plenty to pay for the real educators teaching Science, Maths, Engineering etc.

Poisonedchalice said...

There is a solution and in part it was suggested by the Guardian newspaper whose readers support 100% inheritance tax. OK, how about all those in public sector who earn say north of 150k have all their assets confiscated upon death in order to pay for the next generation of public sector workers. Hmm?

formertory said...

@ rapscallion: I'm afraid you (in your ire) rather make my point for me. 23 years and a pension of £12k? Most people in the private sector work for 40+ and would consider themselves lucky to end up on £12k, especially as it's inflation / index linked, generous widow's pension and completely, utterly guaranteed by the rest of us.

I defer to few my admiration of services personnel (there's more than a few in my immediate family) but leaving my teeth and your hearing aside the rewards by comparison with others are rather good. And no one ever said you couldn't save for an income in retirement alongside your occupational scheme.

You might ask why so many GPs are, according to reports, intending to retire during the next 5 years, or to go part time. One answer is that their pension scheme is so generous they all run in to lifetime allowance limits and so their pensions are being punitively taxed. So they'll quit, or reduce hours, because it costs them to stay. They can move on and take other employment, or relax and enjoy life.

Rather like services personnel; and the Police / firefighters.

Anonymous said...

Just shut shite unis and that's most of 'em. only fund STEM faculties that's mainly what we require - scientists, medics, engineers most of the rest bar English, History are surplus not necessity.

formertory said...

Rapscallion, I apologise. Yesterday, while making my point badly, I managed to anger and offend and then cross the line into trolling. Never thought of myself as a troll, and I'm ashamed.

James Higham said...

They even start to look like piggies at the trough.

rapscallion said...

formertory. You apology is accepted. BTW 12K a year is a pittance for the amount of sh1t I've gone through