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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.

​What is happening?

Discussions between Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) on proposed reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme have concluded without an agreement being reached.

The employers' proposals as tabled by Universities UK, were passed by the USS Negotiating Committee, following the intervention of the independent Chair who used their casting vote to support these.  

In response to industrial action from members of UCU, discussions were re-opened – however no agreement has yet been reached.

At this stage it is unclear if USS will now proceed on the basis of implementing the employer's proposal, which will see the guaranteed defined benefit pension closed from 1 April 2019 (at the earliest), to be replaced by a defined contribution scheme. We await the outcome of further discussions.


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 are in support of academic colleagues who are taking strike action.

We will keep members updated on developments. 

If no agreement for reform is reached the rules of the USS indicate that the increased cost of the current scheme would have to be met through higher contributions levied on both members and their employers.

We will fight to protect our members' benefits and uphold their rights.


What changes are being proposed?

The USS board of trustees have begun a provisional valuation of the pension fund and have reported a deficit of £7.5bn and that the cost of continuing to operate the scheme unchanged has increased significantly.

In response to these increased costs, UUK has tabled proposals that would effectively stop members generating a guaranteed retirement income. 


In future all contributions would go into an investment account that is used to fund retirement benefits, but with no guarantee. It also means that the average cost to the employer of paying future pensions savings, would be reduced, from the current rate of 15.9% of salaries, to 13.25%.

Any pension built-up before these proposed changes take force, will be protected and cannot be diminished without agreement from current pension scheme contributors, unless the HE went into insolvency.




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 pension's 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.


What can I do?

We want to hear from dentists in the HE sector who are members of the USS, on your views on these proposals and how it will affect you.

We would also be grateful to have information from dentists, on what your terms and conditions of employment state on which pension arrangements apply to you – any data you give us will be treated as confidential – please get in touch with our Head of Pensions, please email Phil McEvoy or tel: 020 7563 4161.

This information will help us to make the case for dentists, before any proposals for reform are implemented.

Can I go on strike?

The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) which represents the majority of staff in the Higher Education sector, and who were the other party to the USS Negotiating Committee, has announced 14 days of strike action, in response to the proposed changes.  

BDA members are not permitted to take part in the strike action, unless you are also a UCU member – contact your UCU rep if that is the case for further advice and information.

We will continue to speak to UCU and other unions, and lobby for the best deal for our members. 


More information

Useful links


Working for you

We will continue to campaign for better terms and conditions for our members. If you'd like to be kept up to date with our progress:

Through our policy and campaigning work, we ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level: join us.



BDA send message of solidarity to striking academics


The British Dental Association (BDA) has offered its support to academics participating in ongoing industrial action over the future of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS). 

Giles McCracken, Chair of the BDA's Central Committee for Dental Academic Staff said:

"The proposal by USS to close its defined benefit scheme is damaging not only for the pension prospects of dental academics, but will have a wider impact on the dental academic profession. For senior clinical academics it encourages early retirement from academic activity and also from clinical service; for younger dentists it creates a deterrent to taking up academic activity as a long-term career.'

"We share UCU's concern at this fundamental reduction in the benefits available to members of the scheme. 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."