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Open letter to UUK concerning lack of transparency at Sussex over USS

Updated on 9 February

In particular we draw attention to:

We [UUK] will do all we can to ensure it is clear when he [the Sussex VC] is representing the collective position of employers [as opposed to the University of Sussex in his capacity as Vice-Chancellor].


UUK supports an approach where universities engage regularly with USS members so that their views are taken into consideration by employers in response to consultations. We expect to consult employers over the next few months on how we can tackle the scheme’s financial challenges to create valuable, affordable, and sustainable pensions for all staff, and address the high opt-out rate among early career staff. We will be asking employers to seek and consider views from staff as part of this.

On Friday 29 January, Sussex UCU Exec and Reps wrote an open letter to UUK.

The letter from Sussex UCU Exec and Reps highlights concerns relating to the refusal of the University of Sussex to share, even via recourse to Freedom of Information requests (FoIs), responses to UUK USS Consultations with staff.

The refusal to share responses with staff seems to contradict the letter and spirit of the UUK and UCU Joint Position Statement on USS of 20 May 2020. This refusal marks a worsening of behaviour with regard to transparency since the publication of the UUK and UCU statement.

We have been unable to find an example of another university refusing to share responses in this way. In fact, the lack of staff access to the University of Sussex response is in stark contrast to other universities who publicly share responses in full, including Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial, Nottingham, St Andrews, Sheffield and UCL, while many others consult and share responses on their staff intranets or with UCU representatives.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, Prof. Adam Tickell who, for the purpose of FoI requests, is viewed as the ‘qualified person’, is also chair of the USS Employers Pension Forum for UUK, on the board of UUK and a UUK spokesperson.

The institutional view of the University of Sussex has previously differed in important ways to the views of Prof. Tickell as reported in the media. While clarity with regard to representation was previously possible by referring to the available Sussex institutional view, we are no longer in that position.

In the absence of access to full institutional responses, quotes attributed to Prof.Tickell could now wrongly be interpreted by staff, students and the public as representing the views of the governing Council of the University of Sussex.

Sussex UCU Exec and Reps have written to UUK to ask for confirmation on the transparency position given in the UUK and UCU joint statement and to ask for support. Please read the letter linked above for full details of our concerns.

Sussex UCU Exec and Reps

Note: USS responses that have previously been made available to staff include: University of Sussex Council meeting 241, 22 Oct 2018, paper C-241-x FINAL UoS response to consultation and the University of Sussex Council meeting 243, 15 Nov 2019, paper C-243-x FINAL response to UUK consultation. All other responses prior to May 2020 have been made available in response to FoIs and can be read here The two most recent FoIs dated 25 May 2020 and 5 November 2020 have been refused. Subsequent requests for University of Sussex internal reviews of the decisions to withhold responses have upheld both the rejections.

Photo credit: "Top Secret" by Skley is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0


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