Working Paper 85
Influences on and dimensions of English university governing body roles
Published November 2022

Studies of university governance have mostly overlooked governing bodies. Yet, the English regulatory regime re-enforces their role(s). Scholars have identified trends towards boardism along with the corporatization and laicization of university governance. There is ample sector-level ‘guidance’ regarding what governing body roles should be, but little empirical evidence regarding how governors perceive their roles – and why.

This working paper reviews findings from a study which draws on interviews with over 60 governors representing a cross-section of members as part of five English university case studies. The analytical framework incorporates various governing body attributes and uses multiple governance theories from outside of higher education as explanatory tools. It discusses the nine key governing body roles identified, which align to strategy, oversight and support clusters along with an emerging cluster regarding institutional culture. It explores five cross-cutting themes which include the emergence of new stakeholders, the importance of changing governing body composition, and differing views regarding governor support roles. It also introduces a conceptual framework of dimensions of governing body roles.

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