Letter to the Vice-Chancellor et al.

At our EGM on Wednesday the 12th November, we discussed an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and senior members of the University administration.

This letter is on behalf of all concerned colleagues, not just those who are members of UCU.

Update: A total of 236 members of the University have signed the letter which was sent on 26 November 2014.

To the Vice-Chancellor, the Chief Operating Officer, and the Director of Human Resources:

We write as members of the academic community at Cardiff University, from a number of Schools and Directorates.  We all take great pride in working at this great institution, and we particularly value its history of friendliness and collegiality. We are writing to express our deep disquiet at the ways in which the proposed changes to our USS pensions are being handled by the University’s senior management, and to voice our concerns at the confrontational way in which management has responded to the current UCU industrial action. We believe that it is of the utmost importance that the strong and mutually beneficial relationships between management and staff at Cardiff University be maintained, and that these relationships must be based on collegiality and mutual respect. We are sure that this belief is shared by senior management and hope, therefore, that the concerns that we raise below can be addressed.

(1) Our Vice Chancellor has indicated that the issues “are being negotiated at a national level rather than by individual universities”. However, as you will know, a number of institutions—including Oxford, Cambridge and Warwick—have made public their responses to the USS/UUK consultations on USS reform. All of these responses raise serious issues with the Employers Pension Forum proposals. We would draw your attention in particular to the Oxford document (http://alturl.com/up2p5), which is strongly critical of the EPF proposals, expressing concerns regarding the speed of discussions, the underlying assumptions and alternative responses to the deficit. We would expect that any institution that cares about the interests and wellbeing of its staff would produce a response of this kind. We would like to encourage Cardiff University to formulate its own response to the USS and UUK consultations.

(2) Having spoken with colleagues elsewhere, we are aware that a number of leading Russell Group institutions have invited staff to take part in internal consultations on USS. The absence of any visible plans for such a consultation here, combined with the way in which senior management has rushed to align itself publicly with one side of the argument, has already caused great damage to staff morale and trust. We strongly urge that an internal consultation on the proposed USS reforms be carried out at Cardiff University.

(3) With regard to the justificatory basis for the proposed USS reforms, we would like to draw your attention to the letter published in the THES of October 23 2014 by a group of professors of mathematics and statistics from a range of Russell Group universities. The letter criticizes the “false assumptions” that stand behind the USS proposals, and draws attention to the proposals’ contradictions, unreasonable pessimism and incoherence. These charges indicate that there are serious problems with the arguments made in the documents produced by USS and by the Employers Pensions Forum, to which members of staff here at Cardiff University have been referred by senior management.

(4) We are troubled and concerned that the University appears to have taken a public position in support of the EPF proposals that would render the USS scheme considerably less attractive than the TPS scheme operative in the post-1992 institutions. If implemented, these proposals would mean that institutions such as Cardiff University that aspire to global leadership would only be able to offer second-class conditions. The reputational consequences of this position and the associated damage to recruitment and retention cannot be in the University’s long-term interest.

(5) We feel uneasy when we receive communications from our own university’s senior management that uncritically pass on claims made by the EPF which greatly underestimate the consequences of the proposed changes. We believe there is good reason to be cautious about the documentation being put out by USS and by the EPF. In the interest of mutual trust and collegiality, we thus urge that more thought be given to how senior managers communicate with staff about these issues, and to the use that is made of documents that seem only to represent one, very partial, view of a complex issue. Management communications to staff acknowledge that the issues are “extremely complex” and that changes are unlikely to come into effect until April 2016. However, it is clear that the date for the implementation of changes is far less important than the timetable by which decisions on this important issue must be made. This attempt to allay members’ concerns by stating that nothing will happen until 2016 thus serves as no consolation. The UUK proposal is to index already-accrued benefits to salary at the time of the change in the scheme (i.e. April 2016), uprated thereafter by CPI, rather than to actual final salary. This means that under the proposals prior pension contributions that were made in good faith into a final-salary scheme are in fact to be devalued retrospectively (with clear and serious consequences for the retirement income of mid-career academics). It is impossible to reconcile this position with the commitments made in The Way Forward to “Integrity”, “Respect for people and diversity” and “an excellent staff experience”.

(6) Many of us were left shocked and disheartened by the email from the Acting Director of HR of November 5 describing the University’s response to UCU industrial action. We regard this response to hard-working and dedicated staff as intemperate and disproportionate, and believe that such aggressive anti-union tactics have no place in a university that aspires to foster respectful relationships between staff and management, and which is committed to partnership working and to social justice. We are bewildered and upset to see that senior management seems to be set on a course that threatens to destroy the relationships of trust, respect and collegiality that have allowed this institution to thrive over many years. Senior managers will be aware that the University thrives on the goodwill of its staff, many of whom routinely go above and beyond the demands of their contracts in working to realise our collective goals. We therefore urge you to change course, and to deal with this matter in a manner that instead lives up to the history, goals and ethos of Cardiff University. We note the potential advantages, for all concerned, of the rather different approach that seems to be being pursued at a number of other institutions. We hope that senior managers are not so focused on pushing through the proposed USS reforms that they achieve this narrow goal only at the cost of undermining what is special about this institution, and what we most strongly cherish about it.

In summary, we are deeply worried that it will be damaging to long-term relations within the university if senior managers:

(i) continue to align themselves so closely with a viewpoint that seems starkly antithetical to the interests of staff;

(ii) fail to create space for internal discussion of the important issues surrounding the USS changes, while instead simply communicating the UUK position to staff in a peremptory top-down manner; and

(iii) respond to the current industrial action in an aggressive and escalating fashion, and in a manner that is out of keeping with the university’s proud tradition of mutual respect and collegiality.

Thank you for your time. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Hugh Willmott
Professor Marc Goergen
Professor Edmund Heery
Professor Annette Davies
Dr.Julian Gould-Williams
Dr.Debbie Foster
Dr.Jean Jenkins
Dr.J.Margaret Woodhouse OBE
Dr.Ismael Al-Amoudi
Professor Mike Wallace
Mr Phil Webber
Professor Christopher Norris
Dr.Ceri Sullivan
Professor Jonathan T.Erichsen
Dr.Megan Leitch
Dr.Gerard O’Grady
Dr.Neil Badmington
Dr.Tereza Spilioti
Dr.Josh Robinson
Dr.Sophie Coulombeau
Dr.Rob Gossedge
Dr.Lise Fontaine
Dr.Huw Williams
Dr.Irene Morra
Katy Jones
Dr. Anthony Mandal
Shelagh Weeks
Jonathan Webber
Dr.Peter Guest
Dr.Laurence Totelin
Dr.Martin Wright
Dr.Lloyd Bowen
Dr.Bronach Kane
Dr.Jillian Baird
Dr.Alan Lane
Dr.Mark Williams
Phil Parkes
Jane Henderson
Tracey Loughran
Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen
Dr.Andy Williams
Dr.Mike Berry
Dr.Iñaki Garcia-Blanco
Dr.Lina Dencik
James Stewart
Professor Keith Syrett
Professor Peter Sutch
Professor David Boucher
Professor Stijn Smismans
Dr.LJB Hayes
Dr.Nicky Priaulx
Dr.Lucy Series
Christine Byron
Byron Jones
Dr.Richard Marsden
Dr.Catherine Chabert
Helga Eckart
Helen Walker
Dr.Andrew Dowling
Dr.Rachael Langford
Dr.Nick Parsons
Dr.Alastair Hemmens
Dr.Liz Wren-Owens
Mark Cooper
Dr.Clair Rowden
Dr.Arlene Sierra
Dr.Charles Wilson
Dr.Pauline Card
Dr.Alastair Smith
Alex Franklin
Richard Gale
Professor Chris Taylor
Professor Karen Henwood
Professor Valerie Walkerdine
Professor Helen Sampson
Professor Ralph Fevre
Professor Theo Nichols
Professor Adam Hedgecoe
Professor Gareth Rees
Professor Gordon Hughes
Professor Bella Dicks
Professor Caroline Lloyd
Professor Alison Bullock
Dr.Finn Bowring
Dr.Martin Weinel
Dr.Steve Davies
Dr.Christopher Groves
Dr.Emma Wadsworth
Dr.Dean Stroud
Dr.Stuart Tannock
Dr.Alan Dowler
Dr.Kirsty Hudson
Dr.Gillian Hewitt
Dr.SinYi Cheung
Dr.Lijun Tang
Dr.Roser Beneito-Montagut
Tom Hall
Abyd Quinn Aziz
Ruth Turley
Ms Suzanne Phillips
Jack Greig-Midlane
Hannah O’Mahoney
Simon Wood
Meleri Davies
Ceren Roberts
Professor Lynne Boddy
Professor Trevor Dale
Professor Frank Sengpiel
Professor Daniela Riccardi
Professor ADrian.J.Harwood
Professor Peter Kille
Professor Paul J Kemp
Hon Prof David Lloyd,
Prof Mike Bruford
Dr.Gordon Webster
Dr.Richard Cowie
Dr.Dafydd Jones
Dr.Andrew J.Hollins
Dr.Sean Wyatt
Dr.Guy Major
Dr.Deborah Mason
Dr.Colin Berry
Dr.Kerrie Thomas
Dr.Carsten T Muller
Dr.Helen Jones
Dr.Hilary Rogers
Dr.Alan Watson
Dr.Nicholas A.Kent
Professor Eshwar Mahenthiralingam
Professor Vladimir L.Buchman
Dr.Branko Latinkic
Dr.Julian Marchesi
Dr.Barend H.J.de Graaf
Dr.Matthew Baker
Professor Daniel Aeschlimann
Dr.Vera Knäuper
Dr.Paul Brown
Professor Kerry Hood
Dr.Sanjay Khanna
Dr.Amanda Redfern
Dr.Aimee Grant
Dr.Iain Hutcheson
Dr.Christopher H.George
Ms Miriam Vigar
John Martin
Dr.Fergal Ennis
Dr.Craig Boote
Dr.Tom Margrain
Mr. David Giblette
Lynne Allery
James Moore
William Ford
Les Craven
Professor Antony Manstead
Professor John Culling
Professor Jacky Boivin
Professor Stephanie van   Goozen
Professor Simon Rushton
Professor Petroc Sumner
Professor Gregory R.Maio
Professor Dale Hay
Dr.Todd Bailey
Dr.Lewis Bott
Dr.Kate Langley
Dr.Katy Greenland
Dr.Katherine Shelton
Dr.Lorraine Whitmarsh
Nicholas Pidgeon
David J McGonigle
Job van der Schalk
Dr.Marc Buehner
Professor Wouter Poortinga
Professor Stephen Kite
Dr.Wendy Ivins
Robert Evans
Dr.Christopher M.Berry
Dr.Simon Wakefield
Professor David Kennedy
Professor TonyJefferson
Dr.Peter Cleall
Dr.Bettina Bockelmann-Evans
Dr.S Rees
Dr.Mike Harbottle
Dr.Dafydd Evans
Dr.Rhyd Lewis
Professor Carole Tucker
Professor B.S. Sathyaprakash
J Emyr Macdonald
Dr.M Elliott
Dr.Sean Giblin
Dr.Clarence Matthai
Patrick Sutton
Oliver Williams
Ian Walker
Jon Davies
Chris Dunscombe
Jan Morris-Kreishan
David Harries
Sam Evans
Stephen Bush
Stuart Bowman
Dr.Samantha Jones
Dr.Joe Nicholls
Peter Keelan
Erica Swain
Gill McDonald
Melanie Wortham
Pam Lake
Laura Henderson
Simon Wallis
Sharon Orton
Mark Aston
Ian Thomson
Neil Penry
Mark Hale
Michael Jorgenson
Paul Rock
Ben Biggie
Simon Mylott
Dr.Valerie Greer
Michael Alder-Woolf
Ben Faire
Mark Willis
Judith Watson
Steve Kennedy
Matt Norris
Dr.Eva Savage
Daniel Bunford-Jones
Dr.D J Atkins
Dr.Chris Graves
Lyn Rees

Background & References:

Oxford response to the USS/ UUK consultations: http://alturl.com/up2p5
Cambridge response to the USS/UUK consultations: http://alturl.com/ysmy2
Warwick response to the USS/UUK consultations: http://alturl.com/5u7vo
Letter of 23 October 2014 from a group of Professors of Mathematics and Statistics to The Times Higher Education Supplement, on “False assumptions of the USS”: http://alturl.com/6xq38

Post edited 27 Nov 14 – to add signatories