Higher Education Governance in England: Governing Body Members' Perceptions of Their Roles and the Effectiveness of Their Governing Bodies

Buck, David John (2013). Higher Education Governance in England: Governing Body Members' Perceptions of Their Roles and the Effectiveness of Their Governing Bodies. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f11f

Abstract

Much attention has been paid in recent years to issues associated with corporate governance and there have been significant changes and developments in the governance arrangements in the UK higher education sector. In this context, the research reported here explores the perceptions held by governing body members in English higher education institutions of the roles of their governing bodies. Governing body members’ perceptions of the effectiveness of their governing bodies are also considered.

The research uses a series of case studies, involving the collection and analysis of data gathered in interviews with governing body members and senior staff in seven English higher education institutions. These data are used to explore the views of governing body members with regard to the roles and effectiveness of their governing bodies, and to compare their perceptions with external expectations. The predictions of governance theory with regard to the roles of boards and board members are also considered and compared to the lived experience of those roles as perceived by governing body members.

The study reveals some degree of variability in the approaches to governance at different types of institution, but also many common features. The latter include marked differences between the roles undertaken by governing body members and the roles envisaged for them in formal guidance. Governing body members are shown to be content to delegate their responsibilities for educational character to academics. Effectiveness in higher education governance is revealed to be complex and multi-faceted. The particular importance to effectiveness of board processes and interaction between governing body members is demonstrated. It is shown that no single governance theory offers a full explanation for the described behaviour and approaches of governing body members, but that aspects of different theoretical positions offer useful explanatory insights when taken together.

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