Why are we taking action?

Staff at universities across the UK voted overwhelmingly for strikes and other forms of industrial action to resist savage – and wholly unnecessary –proposals to cut our pensions. Under the new scheme, our pensions will be gambled on the stock market and the average loss for a new starter is likely to be some £208,000.

Why are the employers so determined to push this through?

Universities are raking in huge amounts of money from £9000+ tuition fees but are reluctant to invest this in things that will improve the quality of education: better staff/student ratios, smaller classes, more motivated and secure staff and fewer temporary contracts. Instead vice-chancellors are being paid huge salaries (Goldsmiths’ contribution to the Warden’s pension in 2017 alone was £46,000). This attack on staff pensions is an attempt to shift pensions liabilities from institutions to individuals themselves, and is part of a wider shift in higher education to embrace market forces and competition. It is a situation in which students are seen as ‘customers’ and staff as a ‘cost’ to be minimised.

But aren’t staff at Goldsmiths paid too much already?

Since the introduction of tuition fees, staff costs as a percentage of total income have fallen from 61.8% in 2007 to 60% in 2017. Student fees have not gone into paying staff more!

But isn’t the pension fund in debt?

It depends whose figures you believe. The employers have chosen to use the most pessimistic (and unrealistic) scenario of widespread university closures that, not surprisingly, shows a deficit. In reality, the scheme receives each year much more than it pays out and runs a healthy surplus.

What are staff actually planning to do?

Members of UCU will be on strike on February 22-23, February 26-28, March 5-8 and March 12-16. We will also be ‘working to rule’ which means not taking on any additional or voluntary duties. We will be picketing the College on all these days and organising ‘teach-outs’, short talks by staff and visitors, about a range of relevant topics.

Won’t this hurt students unnecessarily?

The dispute comes about as a result of the refusal of the employers to negotiate seriously. We know that this will have an impact on students, but hope that they will direct their understandable frustration at the employers and not at staff who are seeking to maintain a high-quality university education system. Students can take up their grievances by emailing

What can I do to support the strike if I’m not a member of UCU?

If you’re a member of staff in a relevant grade or a postgraduate student, please join UCU! Whoever you are, please spread the word about the dispute. During the strikes, we would ask everyone NOT to cross our picket lines if at all possible and to take part in the activities we plan to organise. Please email the to ask exactly what Goldsmiths is doing to bring the employers back to the negotiating table and how it plans to address the real concerns of staff and students at such a critical time. You can visit to find out more about the dispute.



GUCU Ballot Results

Goldsmiths UCU reached and exceeded the 50% threshold required in the USS Ballot. The results are:

Votes cast in the ballot as a % of individuals who were entitled to vote 59.1%

Result of Voting

Yes  95.4%  No  4.6%

More importantly,  of all institutions with a turnout of more than the required 50%, Goldsmiths had one of the highest vote for strike action in the whole country!

Thank you to all for your support!

More information is available here:

GUCU General Meeting PSH 326.

GUCU General Meeting PSH 326
Due to a Timetabling clash the General Meeting will now be in
Location: PSH 326
Time: 12:30 – 13:30
Date: Thursday 25th January
  • USS Pensions – Ballot Result 
  • London Weighting Campaign
  • Fight Elitism Campaign
  • Gold Paper
  • Event for International /EU colleagues 5 February 
  • NHS Demonstration 3 February
  • March Against Racism 17 March
  • Motions for Conference 
  • AOB


Your Member FAQs re USS, answered by our UCU National Pensions Official.

1. What effects would the proposed changes to the USS pension have for early career academics?
– Early career staff will be the most affected by the changes as they have less built up in the current scheme. They are also more likely to be on less secure contracts. Whatever anyone has built up in the current scheme up to April 2019 will be protected however, going forward under the current UUK proposals they will have no further benefits built up in defined benefit (annual pension linked to salary and service) but will be built up in defined contribution (what you pay is defined but outcome dependent on stock market) which will be a cash sum from which you would have to drawdown until it ran out or buy an annuity (pension) which is very expensive.

2. How do the proposed changes compare to what is happening to pension systems in the private sector, where investment funds are a common pension vehicle even for third sector employers?
– Very like private sector pensions in that the build up is in defined contribution but the death in service and ill health will continue to be defined benefit.3

. Do we know in what kinds of investments our pensions will be held in, if the changes go ahead, and do employees have any control over these investments?
– Thousands of members already build up a defined contribution pot in USS either as an extra and by taking the ‘match’ as a way of getting an extra one percent from employers or if they earn over £55,500 and all salary over that is pensioned as defined contribution. Currently there are 6 choices for members 2 lifestyles (one ethical) and one other ethical but this would expand.

4. I was wondering if it were possible for USS members to have their contributions paid into TPS. If not now, in the future?
– This is an idea we would be happy to explore but it’s not under discussion at the moment.

5. Has the Union produced detailed data of the potential impact on members at different stages of their career i.e. 25, 35, mid-career and say two to three years before intended retiring date?
– The First Actuarial report shows the impact on 12 hypothetical members at different career stages:…/firstacturial_ussvtps_nodb_29nov17.…

Short version:…/Overhaul-of-university-pensions-co…

6. What alternatives are UCU proposing?
– Under discussion but will be governed by conference policy

7. In the event that we do go over to a defined contribution pension, why should the university contribution be 18% to our 9%? (8%, it is only 9% with the match which will go)
– That amount was based on what was needed to support our defined benefit pensions under the USS. (The employers envelope is 18% (until 2020) out of that is deficit recovery, charges, admin, money to keep the defined benefit paying out assuming the employee contributions are not going in; anything left will go into the individual DC pot and all the employee 8% will go into their individual DC pot. The individual will probably get an option to pay less in, which may be attractive to those who feel 8% is too high.
In 2011 the employers only wanted to pay 10% into a DC pot, the current offer is slightly more but the closed defined benefit section will eat money.)

Now that the money would no longer go to that, the amount they provide needs to be enough for us to have a sensible pension given expected returns. If this is above 27%, then they need to contribute more. Can such a calculation be done to determine what they would need to provide to be used in negotiations?
– They don’t think they need to give you enough for a sensible pension they say they won’t contribute more, not can’t, won’t.

8. In the event that we do go over to a defined contribution pension, can we get a non-negotiable guarantee that the universities will indefinitely contribute 18% (or whatever the final amount is) of our salaries into a defined contribution pension? I am concerned since currently the universities pay 18% to our 9% since that it what the USS needed to pay our pension. If the universities are no longer liable to support our pension, what is stopping them from slowly reducing their contribution to our pension?
– They only ever promised 18% to 2020 and signaling they will reduce but as the Defined Benefit has no member contributions going in it will be very expensive.

9. In the event that we do go over to a defined contribution pension, what fraction of the contribution will go towards supporting the defined benefit pensions? If this is any number above 0, why should we be responsible for supporting other people’s benefits? (Anyone in now will have benefits building up until 2019 not just other peoples.)
How can we be guaranteed that none of our money is used to support a defined benefit pension?
– Your money will go into your pot you can see it on the Investment Builder login. Yes the employer will have to pay a lot to keep the DB section, they have a legal duty to pay out pensions already built up.

10. In the event that we do go over to a defined contribution pension, why should USS be the one to manage it? For whatever reasons, they have shown that they are unable to manage our pensions effectively. I don’t see why we can’t get another company to do it.
– Good point one that has been made. However, because it’s so big it can buy investments cheaply and the employer will pay member charges for most options and admin. It is up to the employer not a member what scheme is on offer in a workplace. An employer will only pay in to the one scheme per group of employees so it’s that scheme or no scheme.

11. In the event that we do go over to a defined contribution pension, what happens to our matching 1%? Will this carry on or be removed?
– Whatever happens the match will be removed probably around April 2019. Make the most of it.

12. What kind of pensions are the leaders of the UUK on?
– UUK and USS staff like UCU staff are all in USS. The Vice Chancellors and such are usually earning too much to pay into a pension there is only so much you can pay in for a lifetime if not they are in USS.

13. What happens if all junior members of the USS simply pull out?
– They would love it. It would save employer contributions and not have to provide an alternative, if it is DC it can run as well with 3 people its all about individual pots.

14. If the future accrual of the defined benefit portion of our pensions is set to zero, what does it mean to keep the death and incapability benefit? Do our partners or dependents somehow get our defined benefit pension if we die young? If so, how is that pension calculated?
– In the current UUK proposals Death in Service and Incapacity will remain defined benefit in most DC schemes there would be a lump sum. How this would be calculated is yet to be discussed.

15. In the news, I keep hearing that the issue with the USS all comes down to how future risk is assessed and that since universities are long standing institutions, there is no problem in the long run (e.g.…/uss-pension-changes-…). Are the universities being unreasonable about this and if so, how can this be remedied? Can we use a 3rd party to give a fair assessment of the risk to be used in negotiations?
– We have tried and taken our Actuaries, First Actuarial into meetings. No success.

16. How do the changes affect those who are already drawing a pension?
– No change

17. How do the changes affect those who are on a flexible contract and drawing a fraction of their pension from USS?
– No change on pension and same impact on pension building up as other members.

18. Re the new pensions scheme, does this work like the Premium Bond system where one gets the capital (i.e. amount invested back) and then any gains on top on date of retirement or is the whole amount at risk and what you get back depends on how the market is doing on the day one retires?
-The whole amount is at risk.



Are you a PhD student teaching at Goldsmiths?

Do you persistently work more than what you are paid for?

Have you ever had problems with your contract?

Do you know that you might be working under different conditions than your colleagues at other departments?



Deptford Town Hall, Room 109

 This meeting of the UCU branch is aimed at part-time lecturers, Associate lecturers, and Graduate Trainee Tutors. A short survey held last spring term indicated different experiences, pay, hours, and ways of treating teaching staff. While we found at Goldsmiths some good practices, the opposite was also true.

In this meeting we aim to hear and share experiences in order to improve teaching conditions at Goldsmiths. We will discuss work pressure, preparation hours, marking, explain the CHC that comes with the contract, and conditions surrounding teaching.

This meeting is organised by your anti-causalisation representatives at the GUCU.

UCU membership is free for PhD students who teach. join at: or email for more info

GUCU Annual General Meeting, Tues 24 Oct, 12noon, Great Hall: RESISTING THE NEOLIBERAL UNIVERSITY


-Carrie Benjamin SOAS Fractionals for Fair Play

-David Ramsay Goldsmiths UNISON on our joint campaign for London Weighting

-FIGHT ELITISM Stand with Community Development and Youth Work campaign

-Update on the Gold Paper

 Tues 24 October, 12noon-1pm, Great Hall, RHB

Facebook event page

As term begins we will are all dealing with the realities of working and studying in a sector that has been increasingly subject to destructive market pressures.

This includes the rampant growth of casualisation in our Universities – with almost 60% of staff at Goldsmiths reported to be on such precarious contracts. The result is that many of our lecturers are working in extremely insecure conditions, underpaid, and without access to basic resources such as offices and equipment. At this meeting we will be hearing from the FFFP campaign at SOAS in order to learn from their hugely successful campaign to improve pay and conditions of casualised staff.

The unjust treatment of casualised staff speaks to a wider set of issues: from the constant downward pressure on pay to the undervaluing of education itself and those who teach – in favour of market or management imperatives.

Join the discussion on several key initiatives to tackle these problems –the joint campaign with UNISON to increase London weighting paid to staff at Goldsmiths; the Fight Elitism Campaign to defend our BA Degree in Applied Social Science, Community Development and Youth Work BA and the Gold Paper initiative to democratise our university.

Would you like to get more involved in the union?

If you would be interested in getting involved with any of these issues – we want to hear from you! At the AGM all positions in the branch will be up for re-election. Whether it’s working on equalities, becoming a department rep, or tackling casualization – please get in touch with Hannah by email

Open to all UCU members – If you are not already a member – Join us!