Working Paper 69
Still unwieldly, male, pale and stale? Isomorphic influences on English university governing bodies
Published May 2021

Governing bodies have been mostly overlooked in studies of university governance, and the concept of isomorphism has not been directly applied to the study of university governing bodies. This working paper sets out to address the following research questions – can one identify isomorphic influences on English university governing body composition and characteristics and, by analysing changes in English university governing body composition and characteristics over time, can one detect evidence of potential isomorphism?

The research draws on two key sources of data. First is a review of sector-level documentary evidence since the mid-1980s. This yields information regarding isomorphic pressures. Second is the collection and analysis of data relating to English university governing composition and characteristics. Here, a new dataset is introduced, which is compared to two historic studies to identify changes over time.

The findings indicate significant isomorphic pressures and much greater consistency across the majority of English university governing bodies in terms of governing body size and composition including types of members. There is also greater diversity in lay governor characteristics. Areas for further investigation are identified.

Read the full Working Paper here.