Response to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations

The request was successful.

Dear University of Nottingham,

Please provide copies of your University’s responses to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Davies

Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

Dear Neil

Thank you for your request for information regarding UUK USS valuation consultation responses. Your request was received on 24 October 2017 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We will respond to your request within twenty working days. Please note this is calculated from the following working day from receipt of your request.

I hope that this is of help. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any enquiries regarding this email.

Yours sincerely,
Karen Page

Information Compliance Officer – Freedom of Information
Registrar’s Department

Web: www.nottingham.ac.uk/freedom-of-informat...
Email: [University of Nottingham request email]

Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

2 Attachments

Dear Neil

I am writing further to your request for information regarding UUK USS valuation consultation responses. Following a search of our electronic and paper records, we have established that the information you requested is held by the University. However, the University considers this information to be exempt from disclosure under section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as the information is commercially sensitive.

The documents concerned contain detailed information outlining the University’s position regarding USS. As the issues discussed are still live, disclosure of our responses (including the 2014 response which is relevant to this discussion) is likely to have a real and considerable impact on how such discussions proceed. It is in all vested parties’ commercial interests that such discussions can take place in confidence to ensure the highest standard of decision making and the best possible outcome for employers and employees. If such confidentiality is undermined, there is a considerable risk that due process will be prejudiced and this, in turn, could affect the quality of the overall outcome reached. The outcome of this consultation will have a significant bearing on the University’s long-term commercial interests and therefore any prejudice to this will be highly detrimental. All parties are provided with equal opportunity to feed into this process with appropriate information shared for informed consultation; this would be undermined if detailed responses were published allowing for discussions to deflect from the main issues. Disclosure would also increase the scope for public and media speculation and intrusion to the ongoing process which is also likely to harm its progress.

In considering your request, we have applied the public interest test and have concluded that it favours application of the exemption. There is a strong public interest that developments around public sector pension schemes ensure that the most financially viable option for employers and employees is reached. Such an outcome can only be reached if all of the viewpoints are considered in confidence. The University has considered the interests of the scheme’s members and it does not consider it in their interest that the process be impeded or that discussions are distracted from the key issues at hand. The University acknowledges that there is a public interest in transparency relating to pension scheme developments, however, that interest is met through the publication of official updates, which are available through the University’s website, https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/hr/your-ben....

Therefore, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this email acts as a Refusal Notice.

If you are unhappy with the way in which your request has been handled and wish to request a review of our response or to make a complaint, please see the attached information sheet and form.

I hope that this is of help. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any enquiries regarding this email.

Yours sincerely,
Karen Page

Information Compliance Officer – Freedom of Information Registrar’s Department

Web: www.nottingham.ac.uk/freedom-of-informat...
Email: [University of Nottingham request email]

show quoted sections

Dear University of Nottingham,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of University of Nottingham's handling of my FOI request 'Response to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations'.

Four potential exemptions to our request have been suggested. Below we discuss each in turn. All of these exemptions are subject to a public interest test which we later address.

Section 22 (1) Information intended for future publication
This exemption is for information that will be published at some future date. As part of the review, could you confirm your plans for when and how the response will be published? Please could you confirm whether it is reasonable and fair to USS members, students and tax payers, who ultimately pay for the many of the services of universities, to withhold this response under Section 22?

Section 36 (2) Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs
This exemption is for information that if released, would inhibit the free and frank exchange of views. The current discussion around the USS valuation and potential changes to the scheme are being widely discussed by many individuals, both in the press and privately in university campuses across the UK. The opinion of employers is an extremely pertinent factor in this discussion. Employees need to know and understand their employer’s position about what is reasonable for employer contributions to the USS and future benefit structure of the scheme.

In addition, Exeter and Lancaster universities have published their responses in full. This suggests that they do not believe that publishing their responses would inhibit a free and frank exchange of views. This suggests that publishing the response is unlikely to severely prejudice your institution’s ability to conduct a free and frank exchange of views.

Section 43 (2) Commercial interests
This exemption is for information that if released, would harm your institution’s commercial interests. Could you clarify how releasing your institution’s response could harm its commercial interests? For example, would it be less likely to: attract students, win research contracts, or recruit and retain staff? None of the information requested relates to competitive contracts. All Russell group universities offer the same pension. Therefore how can publication of the response affect your institution specifically?

Furthermore, Exeter and Lancaster Universities have published their responses. They face the same commercial pressures as your institution, yet have published their responses without harming their commercial interests. This suggests that publishing the response is unlikely to severely harm your institution’s commercial interests.

Public interest test
Transparency and openness
There is a substantial public interest in full transparency and openness around the process of agreeing on the valuation for the USS and potential changes to the scheme. Providing a copy of your university’s response would inform USS members, students, and members of the public about the pressures facing your institutions, its position, and its rationale for the changes it would like to see for the scheme. This would allow ordinary USS members to be involved in this process and aid collaborative decision making.

Scrutiny of spending public money
Furthermore, significant concerns have been raised about the valuation method and the process for agreeing to any changes to the scheme. Publishing your institution’s response would enable the public to better scrutinise how public money is being spent. It would also ensure that the valuation and reform process was fully open and transparent. It would provide clarity about your institution’s position, and ensure that the valuation was handled in a fair, equitable way that maximised value for money.

Suspicion of wrongdoing
Publishing your institution’s response would alleviate any suspicion of wrongdoing. For example that an institution was lobbying the USS to protect its private interests, rather than USS members’ interests. Publishing the response would provide a full picture of the pressures facing your institution and would remove any suspicion of manipulating facts or engaging in ‘spin’.

The fact that some of the responses and many universities’ summaries of their responses are available in the public domain strengthens the case for disclosure.

In the public interest
There is a strong public interest in transparency and accountability. This is particularly important to improve the public and USS members’ understanding about the pressures facing the scheme and their employers. Publishing your institution’s response will help reinforce good decision making with respect to the USS. It will uphold standards of integrity and will ensure justice and fair treatment for all. Finally, publishing the response will help secure the best use of public resources for recruiting and retaining the staff at our universities.

Of public interest
There have been numerous articles in the press about the ongoing discussions around the USS. This issue is undoubtedly of public interest.

In 2015-16 there were nearly 2.28 million students in the UK. These students have a major interest in having a well conducted pensions scheme for their tutors. There are almost 400,000 USS members who have an interest in understanding their employer’s position on the USS. All these individuals, and more, have an interest in universities in the UK maintaining a competitive and well managed pension scheme. The public at large has an interest in ensuring that public money is being well spent. Publishing the response may help achieve this.

In summary, there are unlikely to be major detrimental effects of publishing the response. There are very large potential public benefits from publishing the response. It is vital that the valuation and reform of the USS are conducted in a totally open and transparent way. Withholding the response could lead to an erosion of members’ trust. Many of the 160 signatories below have published a letter in the Financial Times calling for greater transparency over the USS. We very much hope you would be able to help achieve this.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Neil Davies, University of Bristol

On behalf of:

Dr Jeff Round, University of Bristol
Prof Richard Morris, University of Bristol
Dr Eileen Sutton, University of Bristol
Dr Richard Parker, University of Bristol
Dr Theresa Redaniel, University of Bristol
Dr Kyla Thomas, University of Bristol
Miss Emma Cox, University of Bristol
Dr Matthew Suderman, University of Bristol
Dr Kate Northstone, University of Bristol
Dr Joanna Crichton, University of Bristol
Dr Deborah Caldwell, University of Bristol
Mr Hugh Garner, University of Bristol
Dr Emma Anderson, University of Bristol
Dr Gemma Lasseter, University of Bristol
Dr Amy Taylor, University of Bristol
Dr Andrew Wills, University of Bristol
Dr Joanna Thorn, University of Bristol
Dr Hayley Jones, University of Bristol
Dr Jon Heron, University of Bristol
Dr Alison Teyhan, University of Bristol
Dr Diana Santos Ferreira, University of Bristol
Dr Melanie Chalder, University of Bristol
Dr Raquel Granell, University of Bristol
Dr Niamh Redmond, University of Bristol
Dr José López, University of Bristol
Dr Josephine Walker, University of Bristol
Dr Esther Walton, University of Bristol
Miss Rowena Ferguson, University of Bristol
Mr Matthew Quaife, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mr Tim Morris, University of Bristol
Dr Stephen Clark, University of Bath
Dr Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield
Prof Charles Taylor, University of Leeds
Prof Gene Feder, University of Bristol
Dr Andrew Crawford, University of Edinburgh
Dr Helen Cramer, University of Bristol
Ms Catherine Pitt, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Becky Mars, University of Bristol
Mr David Troy, University of Bristol
Dr Robyn Wootton, University of Bristol
Dr Ben Cislaghi, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Ms Kate Rowley, University of Bristol
Dr Natasha Howard, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mr Michael Crawford, University of Bristol
Dr Sarah Sullivan, University of Bristol
Prof Dennis Leech, University of Warwick
Dr Stephen Burgess, University of Cambridge
Mr Gareth Gough, University of Bristol
Dr Jemima Dooley, University of Bristol
Ms Hannah Schubert, University of Bristol
Dr Alexander Corbishley, University of Edinburgh
Prof James Davenport, University of Bath
Dr Kamie Kitmitto, The University of Manchester
Dr Hynek Pikhart, University College London
Dr Duleeka Knipe, University of Bristol
Prof Saul Jacka, University of Warwick
Dr Luisa Zuccolo, University of Bristol
Prof David Wild, University of Warwick
Prof Wilfrid Kendall, University of Warwick
Dr Laura Howe, University of Bristol
Dr Padraig Dixon, University of Bristol
Dr Ewart Shaw, University of Warwick
Prof David Firth, University of Warwick
Dr Jere Koskela, University of Warwick
Dr Murray Pollock, University of Warwick
Dr Julia Brettschneider, University of Warwick
William Hollingworth, University of Bristol
Prof Yoav Ben-Shlomo, University of Bristol
Leanne Kupers, University of Bristol
Dr Patricia Lucas, University of Bristol
Dr Rachael Hughes, University of Bristol
Prof Bianca De Stavola, University College London
Dr Dario Spano, University of Warwick
Miss Daisy Gaunt, University of Bristol
Dr Suzanne Ingle, University of Bristol
Mrs Anne Rennie, University of Bristol
Dr Maria Clara Restrepo Mendez, University of Bristol
Dr Ana Luiza Soares, University of Bristol
Ms Alison Denny, University of Bristol
Dr Charlotte Davies, University of Bristol
Miss Amy Davies, University of Bristol
Dr Lotte Houtepen, University of Bristol
Mr Michael Holmes, University of Edinburgh
Dr Martin Lopez-Garcia, University of Leeds
Prof Alastair Rucklidge, University of Leeds
Dr Carmen Molina-Paris, University of Leeds
Dr Vladimir Kisil, University of Leeds
Dr Nicola Gambino, University of Leeds
Dr Jan Palczewski, University of Leeds
Prof Steven Tobias, University of Leeds
Dr Michael Dalili, University of Bristol
Dr Robert Aykroyd, University of Leeds
Dr David Carslake, University of Bristol
Dr Alun Coker, University College London
Prof James Speight, University of Leeds
Dr Mike Evans, University of Leeds
Dr Ruth Colson, University of Bristol
Prof Steven Julious, The University of Sheffield
Dr Laura Johnson, University of Bristol
Dr Miranda Armstrong, University of Bristol
Dr Johannes Nordstrom, University of Bath
Dr Tiziano De Angelis, University of Leeds
Dr Derek Harland, University of Leeds
Ms Kerry Humphries, University of Bristol
Dr Suzanne Trill, University of Edinburgh
Dr Clare England, University of Bristol
Dr Shereen Benjamin, University of Edinburgh
Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, University College London
Miss Kate Banfield, University of Bristol
Dr James Woodcock, University of Cambridge
Ms Ruth Dar, University College London
Dr Éamonn Murray, Imperial College London
Prof Sian Harding, Imperial College London
Dr David Briggs, Imperial College London
Prof Paul Luckham, Imperial College London
Mrs Michele Foot, Imperial College London
Prof Matthew Jackson, Imperial College London
Dr David Clements, Imperial College London
Dr David Wilson, Imperial College London
Dr Eduardo Coutinho, University of Liverpool and Imperial College London
Dr Huw Williams, Imperial College London
Prof Ben Sauer, Imperial College London
Prof Klaus Hellgardt, Imperial College London
Dr Shahin Tavakoli, University of Warwick
Ms Kay Hancox, Imperial College London
Dr Valerie Good, Imperial College London
Prof Martin Buck, Imperial College London
Dr Andrew Shevchuk, Imperial College London
Dr Robert Zimmerman, Imperial College London
Prof Daniel Elson, Imperial College London
Miss Joanne Chaffin, Imperial College London
Prof Ian Hodkinson, Imperial College London
Dr Bradley Ladewig, Imperial College London
Mr Peter Haycock, Imperial College London
Prof Paul Kelly, Imperial College London
Dr Roberto Rinaldi Sobrinho, Imperial College London
Miss Silvana Zappacosta, Imperial College London
Mr Stephen Condliffe, University of Bristol
Ms Trudy Breuss, Imperial College London
Prof Tim Cole, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
Mr Denis Murphy, Imperial College London
Dr Joao Cabral, Imperial College London
Dr Laura Griffin, Imperial College London
Prof Matthew Foulkes, Imperial College London
Dr Simak Ali, Imperial College London
Mr Andrew Thomas, Imperial College London
Mrs Sibylle Moulin, Imperial College London
Mr Roddy Slorach, Imperial College London
Mr Ronny Pini, Imperial College London
Dr Robert MacCallum, Imperial College London
Prof Yannis Hardalupas, Imperial College London
Dr Peter DiMaggio, Imperial College London
Dr Gemma Taylor, University of Bristol
Mr Martin Eden, Imperial College London
Dr Yann Sweeney, Imperial College London
Dr Ruth Misener, Imperial College London
Prof Ulrik Egede, Imperial College London
Prof Jenny Nelson, Imperial College London
Dr Adam Johansen, University of Warwick

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r...

Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

Dear Neil

Thank you for your email requesting an internal review of our FOI response.

We will respond to this within 20 working days.

Yours sincerely,
Karen Page

Information Compliance Officer – Freedom of Information
Registrar’s Department

Web: www.nottingham.ac.uk/freedom-of-informat...
Email: [University of Nottingham request email]

show quoted sections

Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

2 Attachments

Dear Dr Davies

Please find attached a copy of our response to your request for an internal review of your Freedom of Information request.

Yours sincerely
Karen Page

Information Compliance Officer – Freedom of Information Registrar’s Department

Web: www.nottingham.ac.uk/freedom-of-informat...
Email: [University of Nottingham request email]

show quoted sections

Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

Dear Dr Davies,

 

I write with reference to the complaint that you have made to the
Information Commissioner’s Office, ref no. FS50718980.

 

We have responded to the ICO with respect to this complaint and I am
writing to update you with the University’s present position. When we
responding to the ICO, we applied a new exemption to the information that
you requested, that of Section 36, Effective Conduct of Public Affairs.
This was in addition to Section 43, Commercial Sensitivity, which was
applied initially. In addition, we also indicated that the exemptions we
were applying would only apply until the recent industrial dispute was
over. We have now indicated to the ICO that we will understand the dispute
to be over when the USS/UCU joint committee has published its report in
the Autumn. At this point we will send to you the University’s responses
to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations.

 

Please get in touch if you have any queries.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Jo

 

 

Dr Jo Welham

Senior Information Governance Manager

Governance and Quality

Academic Secretary’s Division

University of Nottingham

A3, Trent Building

University Park

Nottingham, NG7 2RD

t: +44 (0) 115 95 15753

 

Monday 9.45 – 2.30

Tuesday 8.45 – 3.45

Wednesday 8.45 – 5.00

Thursday 9.45 – 2.30

 

 

 

This message and any attachment are intended solely for the addressee
and may contain confidential information. If you have received this
message in error, please contact the sender and delete the email and
attachment.

Any views or opinions expressed by the author of this email do not
necessarily reflect the views of the University of Nottingham. Email
communications with the University of Nottingham may be monitored
where permitted by law.

Fraser Marshall, University of Nottingham

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Davies,

Further to your request for information under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 and the decision notice by the Information Commissioner’s Office,
I am writing to supply a copy of the University of Nottingham’s response
to the 2014 UUK USS valuation consultation.

 

I am also supplying a copy of the University’s response to the 2017 UUK
USS valuation consultation. While the ICO accepted that the University was
entitled to exempt this record from disclosure, we are of the view that
there is no need to maintain this exemption as the consistency of argument
advanced in both responses may be of interest.

The University’s objective in providing its responses to the surveys in
2014 and 2017 was to suggest credible actions to ensure the pension scheme
stayed financially viable. Events have moved on and these responses are
now simply a matter of historical record.

 

The University’s current position on USS pension reform is supportive of
the current work of the independent Joint Expert Panel (JEP) that is
reviewing the basis of the scheme valuation, accounting for
inter-generational fairness and the need to strike a fair balance between
ensuring stability and risk.

 

Recognising that staff highly value Defined Benefit provision, the work of
the JEP will reflect the clear wish of staff to have a guaranteed pension
comparable with current provision whilst meeting the affordability
challenges for all parties, within the current regulatory framework.

 

We continue to wish our UCU and UUK colleagues every success in
determining a valuation which gives all parties confidence in securing a
pension scheme that is generous, fair and sustainable for our staff now
and in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Fraser Marshall

Fraser Marshall

Governance & Quality Manager

Information Compliance Team

Academic Secretary’s Division

University of Nottingham

A3, Trent Building

University Park

Nottingham, NG7 2RD

t: +44 (0) 115 84 67976

 

 

This message and any attachment are intended solely for the addressee
and may contain confidential information. If you have received this
message in error, please contact the sender and delete the email and
attachment.

Any views or opinions expressed by the author of this email do not
necessarily reflect the views of the University of Nottingham. Email
communications with the University of Nottingham may be monitored
where permitted by law.