Trinity College and USS

A Special College Meeting of Fellows (21 June 2019) supported the decision of the College Council to withdraw from the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

This concludes a careful process of deliberation involving substantial expert advice and consultation with stakeholders, and bearing in mind the charitable mission of the College.

The decision by the College’s Charity Trustees helps to ensure Trinity’s continued substantial support of Collegiate Cambridge, which in 2018 amounted to more than £8 million, representing 25% of its endowment income.

Recent initiatives and support include:

  • Grants to the Newton Trust which pays for lectureships and research grants across the University
  • Grants to the Trinity Barlow Scheme to provide for financial support to graduate students in all Colleges
  • Grants to The Cambridge Trusts which provide extensive postgraduate funding
  • Initiation of, and support for, the Pilot Top-Up Bursary Scheme to provide grants to low- and middle-income students
  • Funding the Trinity Joint Lectureship Scheme for posts in other Colleges and University departments
  • Support of Darwin College
  • Establishing the Post-Doctoral Society to provide a College home for postgraduate students across the University

Trinity was a very small employer in USS, with fewer than 20 full-time permanent members of academic staff solely employed by the College in the scheme, out of around 200,000 members at more than 340 institutions. This represented around 0.01% of the active membership.

The majority of the College’s teaching staff (around 60) remain members of USS by virtue of their primary employment by the University.

Academics employed by Trinity have joined a new pensions scheme administered by the College, providing the same benefits as USS.

The decision to leave USS removed the remote but existential risk to the College arising from continued participation in USS. PwC advised USS that the College’s withdrawal does not in itself weaken the covenant.

USS is a Last Employer Standing Scheme, with sponsoring employers jointly liable. Trinity College is unusual among higher education institutions with as much as 75% of its income arising from endowment rather than fees and grants. Although the College was a tiny employer, in a worst-case scenario, all of its assets could have been transferred to USS.

Throughout the consultation process, the College liaised with USS to ensure that it met its obligations in full under the terms of the scheme. The payment to USS, which was calculated by the USS actuary on the day of departure, is in the region of 2% of the College’s total assets.

The College formally withdrew from USS on 31 May 2019.

Senior Bursar at Trinity, Rory Landman, said:

‘This was not a decision taken lightly by the College Council. Following substantial legal and actuarial advice, and bearing in mind our responsibilities as Charity Trustees of Trinity,* we believe leaving USS is in the best interests of the College. This decision has also helped to ensure Trinity’s continued and substantial financial support to the whole of Collegiate Cambridge.’

*Its charitable object is ‘advancement for the public benefit of education, religion, learning and research, primarily by the maintenance and development of a College in the University and City of Cambridge’.