All entries for Wednesday 15 October 2014

October 15, 2014

Birmingham talk powerpoint

I have just given a talk to an open meeting organised by the Birmingham University UCU.

If anyone would like to read my power point presentation, it can be downloaded from here.

Error in Times Higher Education article on USS corrected

The Times Higher Education reporter Jack Grove has now corrected his article after I pionted out his mistake in claiming a deficit of £8 billion PER YEAR. In fact there is a surplus of £1billion per year.

The article still repeats the claim trotted out by the employers that the deficit is caused by poor investment returns.

It would be good if the magazine were to be a bit more balanced and not simply take what the employers say at face value.

Poor and misleading reporting on the USS crisis by the Times Higher Education

I have just read an article by Jack Grove about the USS dispute (Universities unveil firm pension proposals) which is very very misleading.

He writes that there is a deficit of £8 billion PER YEAR. That is wildly incorrect. The deficit is not an annual payment. It is a notional capital sum and as such has no time dimension.

The USS deficit is the difference between the estimated value of the assets (an enormous approximate number) and a notional estimated value of the liabilities (another even vaguer approximation).Hence it is a wildly volatile figure with only limited practical meaning. (This diagram puts it in perspective. We should not get carried away by figures quoted in billions of pounds. We should get them in proportion.)

There is no "per year" deficit. In fact the latest Annual Report shows that the scheme makes a net surplus of £1 billion per year.

He also repeats the employers' claim that a reason for the deficit is poor investment returns after the financial crisis. In fact the USS's investments did well last year making a relatively good rate of return of 7.6 percent. It did not do as well as the Prudential but its performance was one of the best among pension funds. Whatever the reason for the deficit it is not poor investment returns.

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