National disputes in Higher Education: Four Fights and USS Pensions.

Vote 2022, 16 March-8 April.


What is at stake in the Four Fights dispute? Our individual and collective working conditions and pay continue to deteriorate across the Higher Education sector, and early career staff are often the worst affected by current employment policies and practice. Change is urgently needed. Find out more HERE.

Did you know?

1. The median Gender Pay Gap at the University of Exeter increased again last year to a whopping 20% (21.% mean). The median national average fell to 15.4%.[1]
2. In the period Aug-Dec 2021 the University of Exeter issued approximately 600 casual contracts, compared to only 200 permanent/open-ended contracts?
3. The current pay offer from HE employers means the value of staff pay has declined by more than 20% relative to inflation since 2009. That’s right: your spine point is now likely to be worth 20% LESS than way back when Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President.

Why does the USS pensions dispute matter? Because UCU is trying to defend our pension scheme (and your deferred pay) from unjustified attack. The long-term viability of our pensions (for us right now, and for staff in the future) is under serious threat. Find out more HERE.

Did you know?

1.The cut in the accrual rate (the rate at which the value of your pension increases in proportion to your pensionable pay) from April 2022 is so substantial that in order to make up your losses you would have to work an extra six weeks beyond your planned retirement date for EVERY SINGLE YEAR between now and when you would have retired. This applies to everybody in USS.[2]
2. A forty-year old earning £40,000, who goes on to retire at 67, will now start with 37% LESS as their annual retirement income (a loss of £4,750 in that single year) thanks to the cuts being brought in from April 2022.[3]
3.You can use UCU’s pension modeller to check how bad things get for you personally:

What do I need to do as an individual Exeter UCU member? Look out for your ballot papers; check that UCU has up-to-date personal information for contacting you; support the Exeter UCU Get The Vote Out team. More details can be found HERE.

The ballots are now open in these two national disputes between UCU and the two organisations representing employers (i.e. both the University of Exeter and many other Higher Education Institutions across the UK), UCEA (for Four Fights) and UUK (for USS).
Under UK law, these ballots can ONLY be conducted as postal ballots.

The single most important thing any UCU member can do is VOTE – regardless of whether you vote in support of industrial action or not. This is about backing your local branch and acting in solidarity with the union you have chosen to join. So:

-A high local turnout here at Exeter is the best possible demonstration to UoE management of our branch’s strength and our ability to defend members’ interests.
-A high ‘YES’ vote for industrial action will be national UCU’s strongest card in negotiations on our behalf with our employer – which in turn makes it less likely that industrial action will actually be necessary.

Once you have voted, please take 20 seconds to fill in this form:

The ballots for both these disputes are open 16 March – 8 April. Exeter UCU members will receive ballots for both disputes in the SAME envelope. You will be given a single envelope to return BOTH ballots in.

QUESTIONS? Contact your Get The Vote Out lead, Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley ( or the Branch Committee (

The last safe day to post your ballot is Wednesday 6 April.

Under UK law, these ballots can ONLY be conducted as postal ballots. The deadline for requesting replacement ballots has now past. If you had a problem with your ballots which has remained unresolved please email the Committee:


[1] See (UoE figures) and (ONS national figures).
[2] All figures are future pension accrual. I.e. USS pension earned after April 2022 using a very modest inflation of 2.8%, annual salary increases of 4%, and come from USS’s own modeller. The calculations have been made by Heriot-Watt University UCU, but they equally applicable across the sector.
[3] As above.