Deal offered in university pensions row

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education and family correspondent

Image source, PA
Image caption,
University staff will decide on Tuesday whether to back the deal announced by unions and employers

An agreement has been reached by university union leaders and employers to end the strike over pension cuts.

But there have been calls from some strikers to turn down the deal and push for a more "decisive victory".

If the deal is backed by union representatives meeting on Tuesday, the strike will be suspended.

The agreement would mean a new, independent re-evaluation of the pension deficit and temporary arrangements to tackle the funding gap.

But an open letter has called the agreement "completely unacceptable" and wants university staff to reject the deal reached by the University and College Union's negotiators.

Now in its fourth week, the strike has seen classes cancelled in more than 60 universities, with the threat of disruption for end-of-year exams and assessments.

The universities minister Sam Gyimah had called for students to be given refunds on fees for lost teaching time.

Joint deal announced

On Monday evening an agreement was announced by the UCU and Universities UK, after talks at the Acas conciliation service.

The disputed changes to pensions would be put on hold - and a temporary deal would tackle the deficit, with talks to re-open on long-term pension arrangements from 2020.

There would also be an independent re-evaluation of the size of the pension scheme's deficit.

The agreement also indicates that universities would be expected to re-schedule classes disrupted by the strike.

UCU representatives will meet on Tuesday - and if the deal is accepted, the strike will be suspended from Wednesday.

But there have been calls on social media for university staff to reject the deal announced by their union's leadership.

An open letter opposing the deal says that it is only postponing long-term decisions about the pension scheme and says university staff should continue to campaign to "force a more decisive victory".

Universities UK has asked university vice chancellors to say whether they will back the deal by Wednesday afternoon.

It seems likely that many university heads would support the deal agreed with the union.

But the university representative body has told vice chancellors that if the agreement is not accepted the previous pensions proposal would be reinstated, with the "likely outcome" that there would be more strikes in April and May.