"What Works" Conference Governing Bodies of Higher Education Institutions: Roles and Responsibilities, OECD, Paris (24-25 August 2006)


The roles of higher education institutions are changing and in many countries their relation to central government is also evolving. Institutions are becoming more responsible for the development of their own strategies and for the management of their operations. Accountability, evaluation and corporate responsibility are now part of a process, which – to some extent at least – draws on models found in the private sector.

One area where corporate world elements are getting a strong foothold is in the senior management and governance of institutions. These changing patterns of governance formed the framework for this seminar, where the focus was on top level institutional governance, where much had changed in the previous decade. Key common elements were a transfer of power to the Rector, Vice-chancellor and other leading administrative figures, and a loss of authority and decision-making power on the part of traditional participatory and collegial bodies. Increasingly, higher education and university boards and senior leaders are being appointed rather than elected.

Within this framework, the roles and responsibilities of the Governing boards are becoming more complex. Nowadays, in many HEI systems they have a majority of external representatives – from business, industry and regional authorities. Often the chair of the Governing board is no longer the Vice-chancellor, but an external personality appointed by the Government.


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