I would like to start by stating that I firmly believe that universities and their staff play a vital role in our economy, ensuring that people have the skills they need to get on in life.
Universities are subject to regular assessment of their financial sustainability, management and governance. Government sets the legislative framework for pension schemes to operate within. However, it is for the trustee and employer to agree appropriate plans to ensure schemes are adequately funded. This is overseen by the independent Pensions Regulator. Where The Pensions Regulator believes that a scheme's position warrants its involvement, it can intervene. Importantly, it has powers to protect member benefits under circumstances set out in legislation, and that remains the case.
I am reassured that there is a review of the scheme every three years, and that a recent study found the ability of employers to financially support the scheme is strong and can be expected to remain so for at least 30 years.
I am, however, concerned about the impact this strike has had on students, who deserve to receive the education they are paying for and I know that for many students, this is a vital time in their studies. I welcome that universities are under great scrutiny as part of a wider push toward increased responsibility and accountability to students and I am encouraged that the Universities Minister has been clear that he would like to see all universities offer compensation to students affected adversely by the strikes.
I warmly welcome the fact that some universities have already stated they will do this. Students should not lose a day of the education they are paying for and I want to see young people compensated for any lost study time.