UK - The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has come under attack from the Universities and College Union (UCU) for the payment of £2.9m (€3.2m) in bonuses to its investment team.

The payments, which average around £40,000 across the 71 staff members, increase the need for consultation on proposed changes to the scheme, said the union's general secretary Sally Hunt.

"There are serious questions to be asked about the need for such draconian changes and, if the scheme is to retain any legitimacy, then there must be a ballot of all USS members," she said.

Hunt said further that the introduction of a two-tier system could damage recruitment, as well as the time university staff choose to stay in a position.

Changes signed off by the board in July included that new scheme members would only be able to draw a career-average pension, as well as a 65% to 35% split for any future cost increases between the university and employees.

The country's second-largest pension fund was last week also confirmed to be part a consortium bidding for the UK high-speed rail link that connects London to the Channel Tunnel.

In other news, according to advisory firm Pension Capital Strategies (PCS), the number of FTSE250 companies still providing final salary defined benefit (DB) schemes to a large number of employees has fallen to 15, down by five over the previous year.

The company added that fewer than three-quarters of all firms still offered DB schemes at all, totalling 144.

Of these, two-thirds of all companies were only providing DB schemes to more than a handful of people currently employed at the company.

PCS managing director Charles Cowling predicted the death of further provision in private sector final salary pension schemes, despite an equity upturn in the last 12 months.

Similarly, research by MetLife Europe found investors were only offered 0.5% returns on FTSE100 investments in the last decade.