UK – The 19 billion-pound (28.7 billion-euro) Universities Superannuation Scheme, the second largest pension fund in the UK, has merged with the Open University Superannuation Scheme for support staff.

Liverpool-based USS said the transfer, involving around 3,400 current and former staff at the Open University, was part of its expansion policy. The move “allows higher education employers to extend coverage of USS to wider groups of staff, and not just academic staff”.

“We are pleased to complete this first merger under the USS expansion policy and assist the Open University in harmonising its pension provision around a single scheme, as well as offering its employees the security of membership of a large scheme such as USS,” said USS chief executive Tom Merchant.

USS added it is undertaking two similar mergers in the current year “as part of a path-finding exercise that will decide, in the coming months, whether the expansion approach will be extended further”.

“At a time when pay scales for all groups of staff are being brought together we are pleased that our support staff throughout the UK will have the benefit of being part of a single national pension scheme whilst at the same time simplifying the University’s pension scheme administration arrangements,” said Open University finance director Miles Hedges.

USS acts for more than 350 universities and academic institutions with 200,000 individual members.

The Open University, for part-time students, was launched in 1971. It is the UK's largest university, with over 200,000 students and customers.