Public sector workers employed in higher education should be allowed to enrol into the National Employment Savings Trust NEST), universities and colleges say.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) says people working for higher education institutions (HEI) who have opted out of public sector pension schemes would be better served by the government's low cost vehicle.
UCEA says across higher education, which employs over half a million people, employers are bound by law to offer only one defined benefit (DB) pension scheme to all their employees.
The scheme prescribed is not always appropriate for different workers, the association says.
Universities and colleges may offer one of a variety of public sector pension schemes, including the local government pension scheme (LGPS), the teachers' pension scheme (TPS), the NHS pension scheme, the universities superannuation scheme (USS) or a self-administered trust (SAT).
These, however, are not always suitable for higher education's 195,000 "atypical" workers, who are on variable contracts, UCEA says.
"In many cases employees have already opted out and therefore it must be surmised the scheme on offer was not appropriate for them," the UCEA said in its submission to the Work and Pension Committee's inquiry into auto-enrolment.
"This could be for a number of reasons, such as an inability to afford the contributions, being on a fixed term contract, not being permanently based in the UK, working for multiple employers offering different pension schemes.
"Unfortunately in most cases in HE the scheme that is offered is out of the employers' control."
The association added the coming reforms of public sector pensions recommended in the Hutton report, which include increasing contribution rates, may make existing schemes even less attractive to some workers.
The association said it is engaging with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to investigate the possibility of changing rules to allow universities and colleges to offer more than the prescribed schemes, including NEST.
Without this flexibility many people would simply opt out of pension schemes when auto-enrolment begins in 2012, UCEA warned.
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