March 29, 2018

Measuring the gap – update

The full report on gender pay gap at Warwick can be read here.

The first blog that I wrote on joining Warwick was about the gender pay gap and as we prepare to make our first statutory gender pay report as required under the provision of the 2010 Equality Act, it seemed a good time to return to this issue. And of course, having been here for 18 months, I’ve now got a much clearer idea of how our processes work and what’s being done to address this and other related issues.

Gender Pay
The new reporting requirements on gender pay mean that we provide high level information on pay levels and distribution for female and male staff – and across the UK, employers have started providing this information with the deadline for submission towards the end of March. And of course the broader issue of gender pay differentials has attracted considerable interest in recent months. We’re probably all familiar with the furore over gender inequalities in pay at the BBC while data from other companies has highlighted some equally dramatic differences in pay between men and women. Organisations as diverse as the Bank of England, Shell, Ladbrokes Coral and the Department of Health are reporting differences in average hourly pay that are comfortably into double digits while some airlines have reported one of the differentials as high as over 50% largely because of the relatively high salaries earned by pilots who are dominantly male.

The airlines example highlights one of the challenges associated with a reliance on headline figures across the workforce. The factors behind gender pay gaps are hugely complex which makes it hard to look at this issue from a generalist perspective. The University’s own figures point to a significant gap in average hourly pay between men and women overall.

Equal Pay
In trying to understand the source of differentials, a quick look at pay differences by grade shows that at levels 1 to 8, there is virtually no difference. As can be seen below, only at level 9 is there evidence that men are paid significantly more than women.

Gender pay













Grade 9 covers Professors and very senior professional staff. The differential here is marked but has fallen in recent years, in part because of a rigorous programme of equality adjustment each year as part of the review of senior salaries.

The problem that faces the University of Warwick – and indeed many other organisations – is not so much a failure to pay equally to staff at the same level, but rather a skew in the gender distribution across levels, with more women in lower paid occupations and more men in higher paid occupations. And until this changes, we can continue to pay equally for staff at the same level, but a gender pay gap will persist.

So, for us and for many other organisations, the imperative has to be around raising aspirations and creating opportunities for women to advance their careers. But there are few quick fixes. Some organisations outsource many of the activities that are dominantly female and lower paid. Their figures may look better but it doesn’t solve the problem. At Warwick, we prefer not to outsource. Some advocate quotas and positive discrimination – a more controversial approach and one that most organisations in the UK have steered clear of. Instead, our focus of attention continues to be on training and development, on the identification of structural barriers to progression and on tackling the widespread, implicit biases that inhibit the career development of women across all grades. It won’t produce quick change, but it will produce sustained change.

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Christine Ennew, Provost


The full report on gender pay gap at Warwick can be read here.


March 20, 2018

Where next?

Our sector has struggled and failed to find a resolution to the conflict on how best to assure the future of the USS pension scheme while preserving the best possible benefits for its members.We have now experienced weeks of industrial dispute. We cannot continue to simply drift into weeks or months of further strikes, with staff losing money and students losing confidence that we can deliver the educational or research experience that they signed up for.

The ACAS negotiations did of course produce a compromise proposal that might have brought an end to this dispute. Clearly it did not. I do think that there are things that both employers and union representatives can do to build on that proposal which might include further enhancing the employer contribution to USS. However, in order to get to that increased flexibility and mutual understanding, we first need to pull together what the vast majority of our sector can probably agree on, much of which I have been advocating for many months now.Perhaps if we can start with those building blocks we can then begin to move forward. So here are four things that we might have consensus on, that can help us construct a solution:

  • Defined Benefit must remain part of USS - The original JNC decision to entirely remove the defined benefit element of USS cannot stand. I have long been on record as saying that I do not believe that this is necessary and I still believe that to be the case.
  • A new independent valuation of USS,by a truly independent panel, is needed to replace both the September and November valuations as it is clear neither of those has sufficient credibility with all parties for us to build a solution based on them.
  • A collective defined contribution scheme needs more detailed consideration. Such a scheme could help maximise members pension provision while also providing more certainty to both those members and the pensions regulator. If we have truly independent panel considering the scheme’s valuation perhaps we could ask them to also consider that.
  • Let’s get serious about Government backing.USS, UUK and UCU need to start actively engaging with the Government to explore the option of the USS pension scheme becoming a government backed scheme, perhaps some sort of mirror of the Local Government Pension Scheme. I have seen several similar calls for that to happen but the call I really want to see is for at least one of the organisations to pick up a phone and propose that to a minister. Who knows you might actually find that it’s the one way forward that everyone can agree on.

Those are all the things I am confident we have, or can achieve a wide consensus for. I call on all parties to this dispute to work together now to use those areas of agreement to build a solution.

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February 26, 2018

USS – Four vital moves

The following article has been published on Times Higher Education blog on Monday 26 February
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/uss-strike-time-nationalise-university-pensions

Tuesday will be the fourth day of strike action in half of the country’s universities over pensions.

And Tuesday will be the day when the two sides – Universities UK for the employers, and the University and College Union – meet to discuss options. There will be no resolution then. If there is a breakthrough, that will have to be formally discussed in the pensions machinery through the Joint Negotiating Committee. But there are four vital moves that can be made that could take us all further forward towards the resolution to this strike and the achievement of the two goals that everyone shares: the maintenance of a fair and sustainable pensions scheme and the full delivery of education and assessment for all of our students.

First, we need new ideas that allow the Defined Benefit (DB) scheme to continue in practice as well as in theory. The two sides have met many times over the past 18 months, culminating in a split vote in the JNC on the one standing proposal left – which is the one that the strike is about. The onus is therefore very much on UCU to bring forward a series of new proposals: on the valuation process and assumptions, on the level of DB that can be afforded, and on what this might mean for strike action. I believe UCU have ideas, and now is the time to share them as proposals.

Second, UUK’s position is that the time is almost up; that there is a statutory process for the timeline running out this June. If there is the possibility of progress with a new proposal, we would need to see both sides engage with the Pensions Regulator about the timelines.

Third, I would like to see both sides commit to discussions about the future of the pensions scheme beyond this dispute particularly around risk sharing. For the longer term, the joint UUK – UCU agenda could include learning from the Royal Mail pensions process, which promises a novel approach with a collective defined contribution scheme, something that could be valuable to for that element of USS that is currently in DC mode; separately, it could also include employers committing to longer term guaranteed levels of contribution.

And fourth, I would like to see both sides approach the government about the possibility that USS becomes government backed. One reason for the current situation is that there is more risk around the future of universities since the government introduced the Higher Education Act (still less than twelve months ago) with its focus on ‘market exit’ – universities becoming bankrupt. The Higher Education Funding Council’s mission was to avoid such a possibility. The new Office for Students has no such responsibility. Risk is higher, as USS is a ‘last man standing’ scheme. If USS becomes government backed, such concerns are significantly mitigated. Half the country's universities are not striking; their staff are not in USS, but the Teachers Pensions Scheme, which is government backed. Sir Vince Cable lent his voice to the proposition on Saturday. And for the government, facing the costs of Brexit, some £60 billion would move into their assets, were this to be pursued.

This is a big week in this dispute; all want resolution; and the above is an agenda to take us all forward.


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February 16, 2018

An update on USS and strike action

We are now only days away from a period of industrial unrest which I strongly believe could have been avoided and, with goodwill on all sides, could still be avoided. I have been very public with my criticism of the pension valuation and the subsequent decision by UUK to advocate what is in effect closure of the defined benefit element of the USS scheme. I do not believe that either party to the USS negotiation have exploited the full range of options which could have generated a meaningful pension for University staff without jeopardising the financial future of the sector. I am therefore calling for an early return to negotiations, with a more open and imaginative approach from both parties. A return to active negotiations with a real willingness by all sides to explore every option would of course enable deferral of industrial action until those avenues have been fully explored.

In short, I question the need for the change in the valuation assumptions last autumn which gave rise to the scale of this challenge. Second, I would ask that consideration is given to options which would protect the less well paid in the sector and future entrants, perhaps by restricting DB to those in the national pay framework and placing the higher paid into a DC only scheme. Thirdly, I believe it that instead of focusing on removing everyone’s choice on DB USS should look to give individuals the choice to opt out of DB where their circumstances make this less attractive e.g. some overseas staff. Finally, I would suggest it is time for government to take as close an interest in pension provision as it does in other aspects of reward in this sector. This could be through legislation which enables risk sharing DC schemes or by underwriting pensions for everyone currently in USS in a way that is more reflective of government support for unfunded public sector schemes such as TPS.

I recognise that there is a deadline being demanded by regulators. But it is vital that we find a way of resolving an issue which will be costly, both financially and in terms of reputation, for Universities, the sector and - most importantly - its students and staff.

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February 13, 2018

One day without us…

Saturday 17 February sees the national day of action for ‘One Day without us’, which celebrates the invaluable contributions migrants have made, and continue to make in the UK. Here, Provost Chris Ennew reflects on those contributions.

So what have migrants ever done for us……….

Those of you of a particular generation might recall a famous scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian in which there is a lengthy discussion about what the Romans have ever done for the people of Judea and we encounter the immortal response from one of the characters, Reg

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Several years ago, 'The Economist' posed a similar question in an article entitled “What have the immigrants ever done for us?” And they came to a remarkably similar conclusion. Of course, this being 'The Economist', the focus is a little narrow – the article reports on the positive contribution of migrants to government finances and notes that in the case of the UK, over a 15 year period, migrants made a positive net contribution of more than £4 billion to public finances while native Britons had a negative overall impact of £591 billion.

Important as this may be, it doesn’t really encompass the richness of the impact that migrants to this country and many others have had. Without you[1], we might not have Marks and Spencer, the Mini, the Muppet Show, the first woman to be awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, or multiple gold medals for long distance running. Locally in Coventry our theatrical traditions would have been so much poorer without the contribution of Ira Aldridge. And without you we might not, as a country, be able to lay claim to Graphene, The Waste Land, The Water Music or Das Kapital!

Those of you who have come to live and work in this country – and indeed in so many countries worldwide have added immensely to the economic, social, cultural and scientific lives of their adopted homes. And that why its so important that we remember and celebrate the value you bring. And for all those who have come to live in the UK, please remember, we might manage one day without you, but please don’t make it any longer!

There are a number of activities taking place on Saturday 17 February, some nationally and some locally, in support of One Day Without Us. Visit the insite feature to find out more about how you can get involved.


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[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatpicturegalleries/9403459/Famous-immigrants-to-the-UK.html?image=3


January 03, 2018

New Year

I hope that you had a peaceful and enjoyable break. Christmas and New Year is a time of year I usually relish; I love the traditional food, the carol singing (a feeling never shared by those standing near to me…). And I enjoy the seasonal football rituals, topped off for me by a 5-0 win on New Year’s Day.

A New Year gives us time to reflect on the previous year. We have many successes to celebrate – including the enormous triumph of Coventry becoming the UK City of Culture 2021. So much effort has gone into this across the city and through both universities. The city of culture is about entertainment, culture, tourism; but it provides the platform for transforming educational, health, housing and employment prospects for the city and the region. That is a goal well worth working for over the next four years.

Also close to home, the Business Secretary announced just before Christmas that the new national centre on battery research will be in Coventry, with an initial investment of £80m. This represents the extraordinarily close working relationship between Coventry City Council, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and the University of Warwick -through the exceptional efforts of WMG. It gives us the opportunity to be truly world-leading in battery technology.

It has been a difficult 12 months too though, in many ways. On a personal level, my father has had a serious stroke, and that casts a long shadow. I think it has also been a difficult 12 months for the university sector. In so many conversations in London about critical policy decisions – Brexit, funding, TEF, the new Higher Education Act, USS pensions – all I seem to have heard is contempt for what goes on in universities. We have seen an extraordinary amount of negative press about the university sector – and about Vice-Chancellors in particular, driven in part by that institutional contempt. One mistake I made last year was spending too much time trying to engage with a government on issues where its mind was already set.

Looking ahead, we are working on our University strategy, and an essential part of this for me is a confident re-statement of our values. Everything we do is to support and advance excellent education and research. All colleagues at Warwick play their part in this, for which I’m extremely grateful. We also welcome two new colleagues shortly – Chris Twine will join as Academic Registrar and Richard Hutchins returns to Warwick as our new Strategy Director; both are very welcome.

We face challenges this year, of course, but we also have much to look forward to, and I wish you all good health in 2018.

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December 07, 2017

An update on USS

As you may know, a deadline of 18th December has been set for the negotiations and discussions around Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). This deadline has been set to ensure the Trustees can finalise their valuation by the due date of 30 June 2018. I am concerned that there is insufficient information available to us for us to form a view on possible options. We need to find a way for the two sides to come more closely together. In that light, I have today written to UUK to ask for some urgent modelling on different salary thresholds for future defined benefit accruals and the contribution rates they would require as well as the sensitivity of these models to key assumptions.

Pension valuations are very complex and there are significant interdependencies so it is difficult to reduce them down to simple models and preserve accuracy. However this modelling should provide indicative results of what might be possible.

I think it is important that we move away from the proposals for a zero threshold for the defined benefit scheme and consider more realistic thresholds and their associated contribution rates quickly before time runs out.

Although I am proposing the urgent modelling of different salary thresholds with the aim of securing a breakthrough before the 18th December deadline, this work should not preclude the continuing exploration of the possibility of obtaining government backing for the pension scheme in the future and the possible benefits that might bring. As I have said before a government backed scheme becomes an asset for the government, but would provide vital underpinning for the scheme’s members.

I will continue to keep you informed on progress.

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November 28, 2017

Which way forward for USS?

A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to learn that Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) trustees have adopted a more conservative approach to the valuation than had been the case in the last consultation, and that the collective response from the Universities UK (UUK) consultation is now apparently supportive of the removal of the defined benefit element of the current scheme, at least for the immediate future.

It is a very significant change, that if implemented, will greatly impact on a large number of colleagues in Warwick, as well as in other universities around the country.

I am sure that I am not alone in being mystified at this change. After much work and consideration, we were relatively comfortable with the level of risk proposed previously by the trustees and broadly content with assumptions which appeared valid in the round. We reported as much in the consultation formally. USS is now the largest remaining defined benefit scheme in the country not backed by government (on which, more later). There has been a market logic to a number of private sector defined benefit schemes being closed. There are concerns about the levels of funding required to keep it functioning, and these concerns seem very widespread at the moment.

The assumptions in the consultation with the sector have now been altered, and so I support calls from others for more transparency, particularly on issues such as self-sufficiency, mortality assumptions and projections for gilt yields, since these are the building blocks upon which a new greater conservatism has been placed.

I can assure Warwick staff that we will reiterate our previous concern that the proposed de facto end to the defined benefit scheme will require USS’s investment strategy to become increasingly cautious, which would materially inhibit the future growth of assets out of which pensions will ultimately be funded.

The latest iteration of the valuation has very serious consequences for staff and for employers in the sector, and we want to explore how we can get to a position where there is a threshold for the defined benefit scheme which is workable and supports early career academics in particular.

We are very conscious that there are alternative more attractive schemes in place elsewhere in the sector (e.g. Teachers’ Pension Scheme which is available to the post-92 sector) and are increasingly concerned that a very large multi-employer scheme, such as USS, is being placed in the same regulatory regime as that applied to more traditional private sector schemes, with far reaching consequences for staff in pre-1992 higher education institutions.

So what is to be done? First, we will press, as above, for greater understanding and explanation as to what has changed in the process. But second, I think we should also explore the possibility of obtaining government backing for the pension scheme and the possible benefits that might bring. A government backed scheme becomes an asset for the government, but provides vital underpinning for members.

Whatever happens we will not let the current increasingly conservative approach to USS go unchallenged. As a University, we need to be able to offer a competitive and high quality pension scheme and we will seek to work with any other interested parties to identify whether any alternative, more innovative, solutions may be feasible.


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November 23, 2017

Our new student research hub

We often talk about ‘teaching’ and ‘research’ as two entirely separate activities within universities – the extent of recent regulatory intervention around teaching such as TEF and the Office for Students demonstrates how little apparent connectivity there is seen to be between our already well-regulated research and impact, and the teaching experience we deliver.

In reality, research and teaching work best when we look at them hand in hand, each enriching the other, and both at the heart of a university’s mission. At Warwick, we are absolutely committed to research excellence, and to ensuring this is brought to life in the educational experience we offer our students.

This is one of the characteristics which I think sets a Warwick teaching and learning experience apart – our students are able to benefit from access to world-class research and researchers, to work with individuals who are genuinely advancing knowledge in their areas and take up opportunities that inspire them intellectually, and make them stand out in the future in their chosen career path with prospective employers.

In that context, I have been pleased this week to see the development of our Student Research hub. It directly links our research and teaching by shining a light on what research is, and showcases the range of research-related opportunities available to students at Warwick. The hub shares video testimonials from students, employers and academics to give perspectives on the benefits of getting involved in research in an extra-curricular setting. Even better, the hub was built by two recent Warwick graduates.

Whether you’re a student looking for expertise to help get your research ideas off the ground, looking at research as a future career, or – simply – a student wanting to make the very most of your studies – I’d urge you to take a look. It’s going to be fantastic resource and I’m proud that we have it here at Warwick.

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November 15, 2017

Creating knowledge post–Brexit

Warwick is a founding member of the Guild of European Research Intensive Universities. The Guild was established in 2016 to bring together 19 of Europe’s most distinguished universities across 14 countries to enable us to develop a new, distinctive voice in Europe. Through the Guild, we can engage proactively and collectively on the major opportunities and challenges impacting our institutions, our researchers and our students - including Brexit and the EU’s research and mobility programmes. Warwick’s membership of the Guild underlines and supports our commitment to be a leading global research and teaching institution, working with our partners to set new standards for collaboration in research, teaching, innovation and public engagement.

I wanted to share with Warwick colleagues and friends a blog from the Guild’s Secretary General, Jan Palmowski, giving his perspective on the critical contribution our academic communities must make through research collaboration and the movement of ideas and people.

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities blog

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June 2018

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  • And some more reflections below! Sharron and Judith – thanks – I think you are absolutely right – in… by Christine Ennew on this entry
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