Open letter to the Council and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge (updated 8 June)

On Friday 24 May Trinity College announced that it will be exiting USS in spite of staff opposition. As Cambridge UCU have emphasised, Trinity’s withdrawal will not in itself affect the financial viability of USS, or the strength of the employer guarantee by which the Scheme is underwritten. But it would undermine confidence in the Scheme, and might encourage other wealthy employers with small USS liabilities to withdraw, with potentially disastrous effects for the Scheme as a whole.

  • If you are a Trinity College Fellow, please state your strong opposition to the plan to withdraw from USS. Trinity will be sacrificing £30 million from its endowment to buy out of USS; effectively reducing the College’s income by 1.5% in perpetuity in order to avoid a risk that is purely nominal. 

  • If you work for the University of Cambridge and are not a Trinity College Fellow, please continue to sign this open letter (text below). By making clear the costs that Trinity will bear through the withdrawal of non-employees’ co-operation in support of its activities, staff outside the college can make it even clearer that withdrawal is not in Trinity’s interests.

To the Council and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge

As Cambridge staff and members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, we condemn the proposal formulated by the Council of Trinity College to withdraw from USS and to set up its own private pensions scheme.

As Trinity itself concedes, the material risk to which the college is exposed through membership of USS is vanishingly small, and the immediate cost of buying out of the Scheme very high. The threat of withdrawal from the Scheme thus seems motivated by a refusal to accept the basic principle of a mutual scheme across higher educational institutions, and to conceive of Trinity’s interests in the narrow terms of its own balance sheet rather than in terms of the wider ecology of education and research in the UK. If Trinity chooses to adopt such an attitude, it cannot expect the continued support of other institutions and staff for its own activities.

We hereby undertake that, should Trinity decide to go ahead with this plan, we will refuse to supervise Trinity students or to engage in other discretionary work in support of Trinity’s teaching and research activities.


[This undertaking to ‘refuse to supervise Trinity students or to engage in other discretionary work in support of Trinity’s teaching and research activities’ means:

  • Refusing requests to supervise undergraduate students for Trinity.
  • Refusing to assist Trinity in recruitment and admission of undergraduates, including admissions interviewing.
  • Refusing to participate in recruitment and assessment processes for Trinity College Fellowships and other Trinity College appointments.
  • Refusing to attend or speak at talks, seminars, and conferences sponsored by Trinity.

The following do not involve discretionary work for Trinity, so are not covered by the boycott:

  • Graduate supervision of Trinity students, whether at the Masters or PhD level.
  • Examination of candidates for University degrees (who are Trinity students).
  • Delivering University lectures at which Trinity students may be present.
  • Any other duties specified in your contract with your employer.]