More criticism of universities’ dodgy statistics

Universities have once again been accused of using misleading information in a row about changes to USS.

A group of statisticians and mathematicians have criticised universities for picking and choosing the information they use in areas such as salary assumptions, retirement ages and life expectancy in a briefing on the pension changes.

In response to a briefing document by the Employers Pension Forum (EPF), a group of statisticians and mathematicians* said the assumptions used in the document contained ‘misinformation and a mistake’ and were not adequately justified.

They pointed out that the predicted salary increases in the document assumed a buoyant economy, while investment returns assumed a recession. The experts pointed out the assumptions on mortality have not changed since 2011, yet EPF said that scheme members living longer is a reason for deterioration in the fund since 2011.

This is not the first time EPF has been criticised for misinformation regarding life expectancy. Previously EPF had claimed in a Q&A the reason for the radical changes to USS was that people were living much longer in retirement, but when challenged the original answer with the dodgy figures disappeared.

Then last week Oxford University said modelling by Universities UK was misleading as it assumed no promotion or incremental salary increases.

Read the full news story here.


* Saul Jacka, professor of statistics, University of Warwick
Peter Green FRS, professor emeritus of statistics, University of Bristol
Steven Haberman FIA, dean, Cass Business School
Jane Hutton, department of statistics, University of Warwick
John Aston, professor of statistics, University of Cambridge
Sir David Spiegelhalter FRS, Winton professor of the public understanding of risk, University of Cambridge
Charles Taylor, professor of statistics, University of Leeds
Simon Wood, professor of statistics, University of Bath
Qiwei Yao, professor of statistics, London School of Economics
Michalis Zervos, professor of mathematics, London School of Economics