Letter to THE about USS

I wrote to THE two days ago about the proposed destructive changes to the Universities Supperannuation Scheme. This is the letter I actually wrote, before editing. The published version will appear on Thursday.

Dear Sir,
Have we learnt nothing in the past six years about the difference between mathematical models and the real world? If you put garbage into a mathematical model, you will get garbage out. If you model the long-term viability of the USS on the ludicrous assumption that all UK universities go out of business tomorrow, why should anyone listen to you? Unfortunately, this is exactly what the USS is doing. This is pure mathematics, not economics, and the USS should leave pure mathematics to us pure mathematicians.
As a Trustee for several years of the London Mathematical Society, which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year, and hopes to keep going for another 150 years, I learned something about long-term viability. Of course you have to keep the nightmare scenario in the back of your mind, but you do not build your entire business model on it. Your business model must be built on prudent but reasonable assumptions, or else your business will not survive in the long term.
Ironically, the proposed changes to USS might actually bring about the nightmare scenario that the USS seem so concerned about. If, as seems likely, the scheme becomes so unattractive to new members that it becomes viable to set up a rival scheme, then this will eventually happen, and the USS will have dug its own grave.


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