Effective practice advice
Advance HE have created a film which explores the key elements that help make a board effective:
There are also a number of points that governing bodies can consider to ensure their effectiveness:
1. Develop governing body arrangements which are suitable for the context of your provider
As providers have varying contexts and levels of complexity (including size, nature of the business and legal form), different governance arrangements may be appropriate for different providers.
For example, arrangements that are suitable for large and complex providers may not be appropriate for small or specialist providers.
Providers should therefore consider whether their governing body arrangements are suitable in their specific context, and will enable compliance against all OfS conditions of registration.
Advance HE have developed a briefing note which provides further information on different governing body arrangements.
2. Ensure governing bodies have access and participation expertise
The Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (now part of Advance HE) highlight in a blog post that the composition of a governing body is key in underpinning effective practice.
Governors will bring a breadth of different experiences and expertise to their roles. Governing bodies should consider whether they have enough access and participation knowledge and capacity to enable effective oversight of their provider’s access and participation plan.
Regular induction and training sessions can also enhance the governing body’s awareness and understanding in this area.
Governing bodies in smaller providers, where higher education may only be part of the business, should also consider whether they have enough higher education expertise in their membership.
Further information in a college context can be found in the Association of Colleges' code of good governance for English colleges.
3. Diversify the membership of your governing body
The Higher Education Code of Governance states that if a governing body is representative of the diverse student community it serves it will be better enabled to help improve provider performance.
In particular, diverse governing bodies are more likely to avoid ‘groupthink’, where alternative views and critiques are constrained in favour of group consensus.
Governing bodies must develop arrangements to eliminate unlawful discrimination, and advance equality of opportunity between people who do and do not have a protected characteristic.
They should also periodically review their own composition, and consider the steps required to ensure their membership continues to be representative.
Read more about ‘groupthink’ in a research study by SEI and Dr. Iain Clacher.
4. Forge close links between the governing body and the access and participation plan team
The governing body should be aware of who is responsible for developing and ensuring the implementation of access and participation plans. In larger providers, work may be taking place across a number of teams.
Access and participation plans may also have a senior management sponsor, who may be taking a strategic lead in overseeing access and participation plan activity.
Once key contacts have been identified, governors can more easily interact with these staff members. This will heighten governing body engagement with life at their provider, including access and participation plan related work.
5. Build a knowledge base around access and participation regulation
Governing bodies should take steps to understand access and participation regulation. This is underpinned by the OfS’s regulatory framework.
The key documents guiding the development of access and participation plans are:
An overview of the access and participation plan process is also available.
Access and participation plans are underpinned by the access and participation dataset.