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Changes to academic pensions

Proposals have been made by Universities UK (UUK) that would see significant detrimental changes being made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and affect those who are part of this scheme working for academic institutions.

To be clear these proposals are solely linked to the USS and would have no impact on members of other pension schemes, such as the NHS Pension Schemes.

UCU strike action

Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have announced a fresh round of strikes, starting on the 25 November 2019, relating to the continuing proposed Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension reforms, as well as a separate dispute over pay and working conditions.

We share UCU’s concern at the detrimental proposals for members of the USS. We have previously highlighted to the USS our concerns in respect of their pension proposals (see below).  

These changes make the USS look increasingly less attractive than the NHS Pension Scheme available to dentists elsewhere.  

We have great sympathy for the decision that UCU members have taken and will, of course, support any BDA member who is also a member of the UCU or is otherwise affected by the industrial action.

However, it would not be lawful for BDA members who are not members of the UCU to participate in the industrial action. 

If you are a BDA member and need advice about your employment rights you can contact the BDA’s Employment Relation Officers on 0207 563 4541. 

If you wish to discuss any other pensions issues specificially, BDA members can also contact Phil McEvoy, the BDA’s Head of Pensions, email Philip.McEvoy@bda.org.


What is happening?

Between 2011 to 2017, Universities have made a series of incremental cuts to academics pensions. In its three-yearly valuation in 2017, the USS identified a £7.5bn deficit in the scheme’s finances.

This year members of the USS are facing contribution increases, to help fund the growing deficit in the pensions pot. The employee contribution rose from 8% to 8.8% in April 2019, from 8.8% to 9.6% in October 2019 and it is proposed to rise further to 11% in October 2021. The employer contributions are also being increased at the same time. 

The USS has provided information to help show the impact of the proposed changes on your take-home pay.

new valuation was made in January 2019 by an independent expert panel, in which the deficit was halved to £3.6bn. However, the USS is still proposing contribution increases above the rate the panel had suggested.

The UCU has made the case that if the panel's recommendations were applied by the USS to the 2018 valuation then member and employer contributions could be returned to 8 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

What is the BDA doing?

We have been talking to UCU and other trade unions in the higher education sector, and our national lay members committee has been briefed on developments. We were in support of academic colleagues who were taking strike action in 2018. 

We surveyed our members in 2018 to find out how many BDA members were members of the USS scheme. In our case, we know significant numbers of our academic members are enrolled in the NHS pension and so not party to the USS dispute. 

We will continue to stand in solidarity for all academics involved, and we are committed to supporting any dental academics who may be impacted by the changes. 


How do I find out which pensions scheme I belong to?

There is no common position for dentists employed in the Higher Education (HE) sector with regards to pensions' schemes.

Some employees are offered a choice as to whether they participate in the NHS Pension Scheme or the USS (but you can't be in both simultaneously), whereas in others, the institution decides which scheme you can belong to. 

If you are unsure which scheme you belong to, you can check your payslip and any recent pension benefit statement to confirm which pension scheme you are contributing to. 

You can also check your original contract of employment, to see if you were given a choice as to which scheme you could join.


More information


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