Closing the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to future accrual would have "serious consequences" and alternative approaches should be explored, the University of Warwick's vice-chancellor has said.
In a blog post written on the university's website, Professor Stuart Croft criticised the "conservative approach" adopted by USS for its valuation and called for "greater understanding and explanation" of the process leading to it.
In the article, Croft wrote that shutting the defined benefit (DB) scheme would "require USS's investment strategy to become increasingly cautious" and undermine the scheme's future growth.
In mid-November Universities UK (UUK) published a statement on its website where it proposed ending future accrual and transferring members to the existing defined contribution (DC) plan.
UUK wants to abolish the current system where contributions on the first £55,550 of earnings go directly into the DB scheme, while anything above that goes into the DC plan.
However, it has said it might reopen the scheme to future accrual on condition the scheme funding improves.
In his article, Croft called for "alternative, more innovative solutions" - including possible government backing for the pension scheme - to be explored in order ensure that USS remains competitive.
Responding to this intervention, University College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt added: "Professor Croft is right to highlight the hugely damaging impact which ending the DB scheme would have on both universities and their staff. These plans would remove members' security in retirement and leave them facing years of uncertainty about whether their pensions will be sufficient to live on.
"This important intervention confirms our belief that the proposals from UUK do not have support from across the sector. While divisions in the employer position are beginning to show, UCU is united as we fight to defend our members' pensions."
Currently, UCU is balloting members for industrial action scheduled for next February.
"We all want to avoid widespread disruption on campuses, but universities must be under no illusion that their staff will take industrial action to defend their pensions. I would urge all members to back the action in the ballot," Hunt continued.
UUK was not able to comment by the time of publication.
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