Universities UK remains at the negotiating table to engage with University and College Union (UCU) on the long-term sustainability of the scheme and is continuing to suggest further talks. If a credible, affordable solution were to be put forward by the union, employers would want to consider it.
The cost of future pensions has risen by one-third in the last three years, and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has a deficit of £6.1 billion, which by law must be reduced.
An extra £1 billion pounds a year would be needed to maintain current pension benefits.
To meet union demands, employers will have to make cuts to teaching, jobs, and research to move more money into paying pensions. This would harm the high quality of education students currently have and future generations and their parents rightly expect.
Despite year-long negotiations between Universities UK, representing over 350 employers, and UCU, the union has been unwilling to move from its one unaffordable proposal at all, refuses to accept the level of risk facing the scheme and is quoting future pensions figures without revealing how they've been calculated.
For example, the union continues to claim that members will lose up to £200,000 in retirement (£10,000 a year), without being willing or able to demonstrate how they arrived at that figure.
Universities are doing all they possibly can to protect students on the first day of strike action. Employers are reporting a mixed impact at those institutions affected.
A spokesperson for Universities UK said: "Union leaders need to listen to the concerns of the Pensions Regulator and USS. Pensions risk is very real. Their dismissal of the funding challenges is hugely concerning, the very reason employers and the scheme must act responsibly to protect pensions and students. We remain at the negotiating table to engage with UCU on the long-term sustainability of the scheme and we continue to seek further talks. If a credible, affordable solution were to be put forward by the union, employers would want to consider it.
"This industrial action is targeted at students. It will be young people and the next generation of students who will also suffer if their education deteriorates because employers are forced to make cuts to pay more into pensions. Employers are committed to continuing to pay in 18% to staff pensions for the next five years, double the private sector average."