General Assembly





Minutes of the extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly held on 21 June 2010.


Present: 155 members signed the attendance list


Apologies: Rob Kirkwood, Paul Palmer, Iain Phillips



10/7    Business of the Agenda

(a)        It was noted that the meeting had been called under the provisions of Statute XV   at the request of more than 25 members of the General Assembly.

(b)        Items 1. Minutes and 2. Matters Arising were withdrawn and items 3. Structure of the University and 4. Future of the USS Pension Scheme would be taken in reverse order.


10/8    Future of the USS Pension Scheme

(a)        Proposed Motion

Professor Memis Acar, the Loughborough University UCU representative for the USS pension scheme, introduced the following motion which had been submitted with the support of 103 members of General Assembly :


"We, the General Assembly of Loughborough University, take note of the USS actuary's evaluation of the required changes that are needed to set the Scheme on a sustainable future basis and support UCU's proposals for reforming the USS pension scheme open to all members of the academic and academic related staff of Loughborough University.


We, the General Assembly of Loughborough University, resolve that the Vice Chancellor, Chair and members of Council should take note of the support of the General Assembly of Loughborough University for UCU’s proposals for reforming the USS system and that they inform the Employers' Pensions Forum of Loughborough University's support for the UCU proposals in order that the Joint Negotiating Committee can achieve a speedy agreement on any necessary changes to USS.”


He outlined the UCU position on proposals for changes to USS noting that UCU did not accept that the scheme was in structural deficit although it did recognise that some changes were necessary in relation to factors such as increased longevity and levels of returns on investments. UCU proposed that any future increases in the cost of the scheme were shared between members and employers but UCU felt the employers proposals in this regard did not appear to be clear. UCU was also concerned that the proposal to move to a retirement age of 65 at Loughborough represented a change to the Conditions of Service. Professor Acar summarised UCU reasons for opposing the move to career average pensions for new members and noted that some Universities were understood to be threatening to leave USS unless the employers proposals were agreed.


The Vice-Chancellor confirmed that Loughborough was committed to the USS scheme and would not consider leaving it.


(b)          Background information


General Assembly noted that further information on proposals for reforming USS was available at:


Employers Pension Forum for HE :




and a brief summary comparing the proposals was received (HRC10-P14).


Mr Spinks, the Chief Operating Officer, had been invited by the Vice-Chancellor to present an independent factual summary of the current issues facing the Trustees of the USS scheme, to inform General Assembly. Mr Spinks stressed that he was not speaking against the motion and went on to set out the general background issues relating to the future of pensions nationally and the most recent assessment of the USS scheme by its own actuaries (Mercers). He also summarised the current timetable for review of the USS scheme and the groups involved in the discussions. In addition, Mr Spinks presented a comparison of the key differences between the current proposals from the Employers’ Pensions Forum and UCU. He confirmed that the EPF was prepared to share any increase in future costs with employees although there was a difference of view in the share which should fall to each side. In Mr Spinks’ view the main issues of difference were:



A meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee was scheduled for 7 July 2010 and it was possible that the independent chair, Sir Andrew Cubie, would use his casting vote to resolve the current impasse between the EPF and UCU proposals.

The Vice-Chancellor then invited a discussion of the issues which included the following:


(c)        Outcome of Vote on the Motion

Memis Acar then spoke briefly in support of the motion and a vote was taken by show of hands. The outcome was as follows:

In favour :        121

Against :          13

Abstentions:    21

The motion was therefore carried and would be communicated as the view of General Assembly to members of Council.


10/9    Structure of the University


(a)        Proposed Motion

Professor Alan Bairner, the Loughborough University UCU branch President Elect and a Professor in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences introduced the following motion which had been submitted with the support of 40 members of General Assembly :


“We, the General Assembly of Loughborough University, are concerned about the likely impact on staff and jobs of the restructuring proposals and the move to larger Schools. We resolve that the Vice-Chancellor and members of SENATE must ensure:


i)     That the justification for any proposed restructuring should be based on factual, quantifiable cost-benefit analysis that can justify the benefits, which need to be made available to General Assembly members, so that they may comment on the appropriateness and accuracy of the facts.


ii)    That any move to larger schools takes place as and when the financial benefits and academic synergy are assured.


iii)   That any restructuring should take care to maintain collegiality and avoid centralisation of decision making.


iv)   That positions of senior academic leadership (such as heads of schools) should always be held by academics and democratically elected by the members of the school.”


He outlined his personal reasons for joining Loughborough in 2003 and his concerns that the current restructuring proposals might impact negatively on the retention and recruitment of academic staff in the future and on collegiality. Whilst UCU recognised the financial pressures on the University and the need for some change, it felt the economic case for the proposed changes was unproven, it was uncertain that economies of scale could be realised without significant increases in workload for some colleagues and larger units could prove challenging to manage.


It was noted that the final report from the University Structure Project Management Board, to be considered at Senate on 30 June 2010, had been circulated to all staff.

General Assembly received a presentation from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shirley Pearce, on the external pressures on the University and the importance of robust organisational structures to enable Loughborough to deal with the challenges expected in the next few years. She stressed the value she placed on the retention of Loughborough’s distinctive culture of collegiality. Loughborough offered a distinctive range of subjects and aimed for excellence in all areas. There was no intention to reduce the breadth of the University’s current offering and it was essential to optimise organisational structures to protect the viability of smaller subjects in the future.

Professor Neil Halliwell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, then outlined the potential impact on two sample departments of anticipated reductions in funding and his overall conclusion that larger academic units were more resilient in the face of the need to make cost savings. Professor Chris Linton, Chair of the University Project Management Board, briefly summarised the four main recommendations the Board set out in its final report which would be formally considered by Senate. If the proposals were approved, a new Project Management Board would be established to oversee their implementation. It was also confirmed that the Deans of the proposed new Schools would be members of academic staff and would be appointed in accordance with the existing procedures for appointment of Heads of Departments. General Assembly noted that these procedures involved consultation with relevant staff but that Heads were not elected.


A discussion of a variety of issues followed including the following:


(b)       Outcome of Vote on the Motion

General Assembly then considered the proposed motion set out above and it was agreed that, since point (iv) was factually inaccurate as a representation of current practice, for the purposes of the vote it would be amended to read:


That positions of senior academic leadership (such as heads of schools) should always be held by academics and appointed through agreed procedures involving consultation with the members of the school.”


A vote was taken on the motion by show of hands. The outcome was as follows:

In favour :        99

Against :          11

Abstentions:    20

The motion was therefore carried and would be communicated as the view of General Assembly to Senate (30 June 2010) and Council (8 July 2010).



Author – Jennifer Nutkins

Date – 22 June 2010

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