A spokesperson for Universities UK said: "Universities UK is committed to finding a resolution to this dispute. Every effort must be made by both sides to avoid further strike action and more disruption to students' education.
"The reform proposals, developed jointly with UCU negotiators at the ACAS talks, address the priorities that the union had set out on behalf of their members and showed our willingness to revise our proposals to find common ground.
"We listened to the concerns of university staff, and proposed to increase employer contributions to the scheme to maintain meaningful defined benefits (DB). Given the concerns about how the scheme has been valued, we have proposed to establish an independent expert valuation group.
"We are now consulting with the scheme's employers to get their views on the joint proposals developed at ACAS.
"We would like to meet with UCU as soon as possible to better understand the concerns raised by their branches, and seek an urgent, affordable solution to end this dispute."
Talks between Universities UK and UCU began at Acas on Monday 5 March 2018, following discussions that started in January 2017. An agreement was reached on Monday 12 March between Universities UK (UUK) and the University and College Union (UCU) on proposals under the auspices of Acas following six days of talks. These proposals were, however, rejected by UCU on Tuesday 13 March after it consulted affected UCU branches.
As part of the Acas agreement, it was proposed that all USS members would receive defined benefits (DB) up to a £42,000 salary threshold. More than 50% of USS members would continue to have a fully DB pension.
The transitional arrangement would take effect from 1 April 2019, lasting for 3 years. To achieve this interim solution, both employers and members would be required to pay higher contributions. This would include a total employer contribution of 19.3% of salaries and a total member contribution of 8.7%. These increased contributions would only be in place for the duration of the 3-year transitional arrangement.
Given the concerns raised by some employers and UCU about the scheme's valuation methodology and assumptions, an agreement was also reached between UCU and UUK to convene an independent expert valuation group with an independent chair, involving academics and pension professionals, and liaising with USS. The objective would be to inform the next USS valuation and therefore would be completed by the end of 2019.
Employers views on the proposal are currently being collated.
USS is governed by a clear set of scheme rules. The Joint Negotiating Committee decided upon benefit reform changes on 23 January 2018. The JNC brings together an equal number of representatives from Universities UK and the University and College Union. The JNC has an independent chair who oversees discussions between employer and member representatives, and can choose to cast a deciding vote if agreement between both parties cannot be reached.