GOOD GOVERNANCE
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q1. What is governance, and how is it different from administration?
Q2. What are the main tasks of a Governing Body?
Q3. What experience and skills should members of a Governing Body possess?
Q4. How much time should members of the Governing Body expect to contribute?
Q5. What are the most important roles of the Chair of the Governing Body?
Q6. How should governors work with the staff of the institution?
Q7. How open and transparent should the Board be?
Q8. How can the institution’s success best be judged, including by comparison with others?
Q9. Can Boards of Governors go too far?
Q10. How can Boards of Governors judge their own success?
Q1. What is governance, and how is it different from administration?
 

Good governance requires all higher education institutions to have an effective and accountable governing body (e.g. Board of Governors). The main tasks of a governing body are described in the Good Practice Guide for Governing Bodies and are summarised below.

Administration is concerned with the direct management of the institution, and it is important to maintain a distinction between the role of the governing body and the role of the institution’s staff in delivering its plans.

Q2. What are the main tasks of a Governing Body?
 

The Good Practice Guide for Governing Bodies section on Primary.
Accountabilities sets out those tasks in some detail. In summary, the main tasks of the governing body are:

  • To approve the institution’s mission and strategic vision.
  • To ensure the establishment and monitoring of proper, effective and efficient systems of control and accountability.
  • To monitor institutional performance and quality assurance arrangements.
  • To put in place suitable arrangements for monitoring the Head of Institution’s performance.
  • To ensure compliance with all relevant regulatory requirements.
Q3.

What experience and skills should members of a Governing Body possess?
 

There is a summary list of the desirable characteristics of governing body members in resources section of the website. Governing body members should be chosen so that taken as a whole the governing body can deliver its main tasks and retain the confidence of its stakeholders, inside and outside the institution.

It is central to the proper conduct of public business that Chairs and members of governing bodies should act and be perceived to act impartially, and not be influenced in their role as governors by social, political, or business relationships.

   
Q4. How much time should members of the Governing Body expect to contribute?
 

Governing body members should expect to attend all of the meetings of the governing body and any relevant committees and should also expect to support the institution between meetings.

Taken together, this is a substantial commitment and generally, it might not serve (TEQIP) institutions well if members serve on more than one or two governing bodies at any one time. One TEQIP institution, for example, states that its governing body members should expect to commit between 80 – 100 hours a year.

   
Q5. What are the most important roles of the Chair of the Governing Body?
  The Chair is responsible for the leadership of the Board and is therefore ultimately responsible for its effectiveness. The Chair ensures that the institution is well connected with its stakeholders. Annex 1 of the Good Practice Guide for Governing Bodies sets out a detailed role description for the Chair.
   
Q6. How should governors work with the staff of the institution?
  One of the most important working relationships is between the Chair of the Governing Body and the Head of the Institution. The Chair should be able to offer both support and challenge to the head of the institution. Governing body members should be clear that their role is based on the main tasks set out in para 2 above. They, too, should see their role as supporting and challenging the institution, while recognising that they have no direct management responsibilities. This avoids any direct conflicts of interest between the two distinctly different roles. (See also Good Practice Guide for Governing Bodies, Section C: Key Attributes of Governing Bodies)
   
Q7. How open and transparent should the Board be?
  As open and transparent as possible, for example by publishing details of the governing body’s activities on the institution’s website and by publishing an Annual Report. The governing body should also devote effort to ensuring the best possible communication with its main stakeholders inside and outside the institution. Good governance arrangements play an important part in the way that institutions are held accountable to the government and the public interest.
   
Q8. How can the institution’s success best be judged, including by comparison with others?
  The governing body should regularly judge the institution’s success against its own strategy and detailed plans. The governing body should also identify indicators, which will enable benchmarking to take place against comparable institutions, ideally going well beyond the local region.
   
Q9. Can Boards of Governors go too far?
  Yes, in particular by trying to take over the role of the leaders and managers of the institution. Governing body members have no authority to instruct members of the institution’s staff and should restrict themselves to ensuring that appropriate systems are in place rather than try to run those systems themselves.
   
Q10. How can Boards of Governors judge their own success?
  By regular self-review, taking Annex 4 of the Good Practice Guide for Governing Bodies as a starting point and reflecting in particular on the performance of the institution and the governing body’s contribution to that success. Good self-reviews should be used as a development tool - one where there is a high degree of candour, self-reflection and a clear interest in continuous development.
   
   

 

Self-review is a key activity and output of the Good Governance Programme through which institutions can examine their current governance practice. Self-review can be undertaken regularly (for example every 3 -5 years).

Supporting governance development needs of individual governors, governing bodies, institutions and States is a key activity of this and other national and regional initiatives. Another output of the Good Governance Programme is a Governance Development Plan to see how governance development is built into institutional development through clear, timebound action planning.

 

 

Implementing good governance practice is the primary outcome of the Good Governance Programme demonstrated by institutions developing their own governance guidelines which sets out institutional governance practices based on the Good Practice Guide for Governing Bodies. This would include a process and timetable for monitoring and reviewing governance practise.
Sharing experience underpins and supports the Good Governance Programme through good governance learning forums, sharing of institutional case studies of good practice, highlighting common gaps, barriers and issues, and helping institutions to learn from one another.