University Governance: Views From the Inside

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Between February and June 2023, in-depth interviews were conducted with 47 current and former members of university governing bodies in England. The interviewees, many of whom had served at multiple universities, were invited to reflect on how higher education was talked about, how institutional decisions were reached, and how governance was conceptualised and enacted. In a sector beset by uncertainty around funding and purpose, and sometimes under-confident in its public role, the goal was to explore how cultures might usefully evolve if governing bodies are to offer the exemplary stewardship and guidance needed for universities to forge new contracts with their host societies. A key overarching finding is that governance remains a site in which many individual actors strive to provide the very best strategic oversight they can for their individual institution. e opportunity to contribute to the governance of the higher education sector was repeatedly framed as an honour by interviewees, and examples of impressive local practice were commonplace, especially in smaller and/or subject specific providers. Governing bodies were found to be at their strongest when taking an explicitly co-operative and inclusive approach, and drawing democratically on a diverse range of views and experiences. However, this research also identified serious shortcomings. Not all interviewees felt they were able to optimise their contribution, and some governing bodies were reported to be stratified, cliquish and even intimidating.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCouncil for the Defence of the British University
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024


  • governance
  • Higher education


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