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Review of Scotland's Colleges: Accountability and Governance [BULLSHIT]


Annex 1 Desk Review


The desk review comprises three elements:

  • Review of governance [BULLSHIT] standards - this section reviews the main standards that have application to the college sector in Scotland and reaches a conclusion on their fitness for purpose. "The Good Governance [BULLSHIT] Standard for Public Services" 37 has been used in the main report as the principal benchmark against which the standards in the college sector have been assessed.
  • Historic review of accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] - based on a desk review of previous internal and external research studies on accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] in the Scottish College sector, DTZ has assessed this evidence as the starting position for the current review exercise. However, the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Main Report have been based upon the primary research, which DTZ conducted via the eight case studies and the survey of college Chairs, not the historic information of where the college sector has been. Hence, this section of the desk review is included in the Annex 1 for background information only.
  • Governance [BULLSHIT] good practice [BULLSHIT] examples - drawing from different private and public sectors DTZ has summarised a range of good practice [BULLSHIT] examples. These have been drawn upon extensively in the Main Report. The bibliography of sources is contained in Annex 4.

The reader should be aware that the Desk Review was completed in advance of the primary research, which forms the basis of the Main Report. Hence, Annex 1 provides supporting information to that which is contained in the Main Report.

Governance [BULLSHIT] Standards

Over the last 15 years, concern over governance [BULLSHIT] in the public and private sectors has driven a series of reviews and commissions to raise standards.

Public concern over organisational governance [BULLSHIT], in the first instance prompted by allegations of parliamentary misconduct, led to the establishment in 1994 of the Committee of Standards in Public Life. In the corporate sector widespread concern about the conduct of company boards focusing on remuneration rewards, financial reporting and accountability, has led to the establishment of a number of official reviews. The recommendations from three committees of enquiry - Cadbury (1992), Greenbury (1995) and Hampel (1998) - have laid the foundations for corporate governance [BULLSHIT] in listed companies.

Following the Enron and WorldCom affairs in the USA, the UK Financial Reporting Council ( FRC) commissioned two committees to review UK corporate governance [BULLSHIT]. The Higgs Report on Non Executive Directors and the Smith Report on Audit Committees were both published in January 2003. The major recommendations of these two reports together with the guidance in the Turnbull Report (1999) were integrated into a new Combined Code (2003) setting out principles of good governance [BULLSHIT]. This Code sets out expectations for the operation of company boards, and since the incorporation of colleges in 1992, the Code contains recommendations with clear relevance to the college sector.

These developments have led to a plethora of publications of a number of reports setting out the standards organisations should achieve in the governance [BULLSHIT] field and specifying examples of good practice [BULLSHIT] in governance [BULLSHIT] arrangements.

Specifically, in the Scottish College sector, in 2002 the Scottish Executive instigated a review of accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] arrangements which led to a number of recommendations for change based on a wide-ranging consultation exercise. One of these was for the Association of Scotland's Colleges ( ASC) and Scottish Further Education Unit ( SFEU) to provide guidance to Board Members. The first edition was published in 2003, with the most recent edition published in August 2006.

What is Good Governance [BULLSHIT]?

Most of the literature reviewed eschews any authoritative definition of governance [BULLSHIT] and instead sets out to explain why good governance [BULLSHIT] matters and then to describe the features that best exemplify well-governed organisations. Despite the absence of any one agreed definition there is remarkable similarity between the standards proposed across the private and public sectors.

The Scottish Executive in its publication 'On the Board - A Guide for Board Members of Public Bodies in Scotland' (2003) provides a useful overview of the concept. It suggests that corporate governance [BULLSHIT] is concerned with the structures and processes for decision-making and accountability, controls and behaviour at the top of organisations. The 'board', which could take a variety of forms, is identified as the group to which the principles of corporate governance [BULLSHIT] apply given that it should be responsible for:

  • providing leadership [BULLSHIT] and strategic [BULLSHIT] direction
  • defining control mechanisms [BULLSHIT] to safeguard public resources
  • supervising the overall management of the bodies activities
  • reporting on stewardship and performance.

The Good Governance [BULLSHIT] Standard for Public Services (2004) confirms this definition stating that governing body members are responsible for the leadership, direction and control of their organisations. Accountability is more explicitly defined stating that governors must work in the public interest, bringing about positive outcomes [BULLSHIT] for service users [BULLSHIT] as well as providing good value for the taxpayers who fund the services. They should balance the public interest with their accountability to government and an increasingly complex regulatory environment, and motivate front-line staff by making sure that good executive leadership is in place. This document breaks down the good governance [BULLSHIT] by six Standards 38 and provides practical application suggestions and good practice [BULLSHIT] examples.

The ASC (2006) sets out a comprehensive Guide for College Board Members. It sets out the key principles of governance [BULLSHIT], roles and responsibilities of the Board, Committees, individual Board members (including relationships within the Board and between the Chair and Principal), accountability relationships to students, and briefly describes how Boards should work with and provide information to the Scottish Funding Council, Audit Scotland and Local Enterprise Companies. It also provides a number of good governance [BULLSHIT] tools - Audit Committee and Good Governance [BULLSHIT] checklists, and a self-evaluation framework [BULLSHIT].

It has been agreed that Scottish Colleges will retain their charitable status. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator ( OSCR) has recently published new guidance for charity trustees, outlining their duties under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. The definitions of the trustees are consistent with those of the governing body members i.e. to maintain general overall control of the charity, ensure that it is administered effectively and is able to account for its activities and outcomes [BULLSHIT] both to OSCR and to the public. The new OSCR publication explains general duties, such as: acting in the interests of the charity; operating in a manner consistent with the charity's purposes; acting with care and diligence; and collective or corporate responsibility. In addition, specific duties are detailed, including: reporting to OSCR; financial records and reporting; and providing information to the public. The guide also provides a checklist with examples of good practice [BULLSHIT].

In conclusion - there is a considerable volume of governance [BULLSHIT] good standards literature which set out the principles and theory of organisational governance [BULLSHIT]. In recent years this has evolved into good practice [BULLSHIT] guides which clearly break down the elements and themes of governance [BULLSHIT] and how this should be applied through good practice [BULLSHIT] examples. It is also evident that there has been considerable work in this area in the Scottish College sector, notable through the most recent ASC Guide for College Board Members. This is now complemented by the OSCR guide. All of this literature provides an extensive and very firm foundation on which College Board Members should base their understanding of governance [BULLSHIT] standards.

Accountability and Governance [BULLSHIT] in the Scottish College Sector

The objective of this sub-section is to examine the historic performance of governance [BULLSHIT] in the Scottish college sector focusing on the evidence from the late 1990s to 2006. The aim is to answer the following questions:

  • What has been the performance of accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] in the Scottish college sector?
  • What trends in performance, if any, can be identified over this period?
  • What recommendations to improve performance have been identified?

To answer these questions we have drawn upon the three organisations which have been actively engaged in reviewing accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] over this period: see Figure A1.1.

Figure A1.1 Main Reviewers of Accountability & Governance [BULLSHIT]

image of Figure A1.1 Main Reviewers of Accountability & Governance

The key documents that have been included in our review are summarised in Table A1.1. It provides the chronological sequence, the scope of the reviews and their triggers, and an outline of their key findings. We have purposely not included information from HMIE for two reasons:

  • Their focus is on the quality of education provision (subject and college review elements) and information relating to accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] is indirect;
  • The evidence reviewed is very supportive of what the sector is achieving in quality terms:

"…the assessments for the most recent cycle, completed in 2004, show the sector to be performing well. For college-wide reviews, 88% of grades awarded were good or very good, with less than 0.4% assessed as unsatisfactory. For subject-specific reviews, 86% were assessed as good or very good, with 0.5% assessed as unsatisfactory." 39

It should also be noted that evidence drawn upon by SFC in self-evaluations undertaken [BULLSHIT] by the college sector itself has been included.

Table A1.1 Review of Accountability & Governance [BULLSHIT] in the Scottish College Sector: 2000 - 2006, Summary of Key Documents





Aug 2000

" Report on the Review of Management of Scottish FE Colleges" - SFEFC

To identify and promote best management practice throughout the college sector

"Much good governance [BULLSHIT] and management practice in place". Recommendations re. board member involvement in strategic [BULLSHIT] planning and their training requirements.

June 2001

"Governance [BULLSHIT] and financial management at Moray College" - Audit Scotland

Financial problems at Moray College highlighted by SFEFC

Problems of poor governance [BULLSHIT] at Moray College. Also, wider issues over accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] for the sector as a whole.

May 2002

" Governance [BULLSHIT] and Accountability in the FE Sector" - consultation paper published by Scottish Executive

Problems in Moray College and response of Audit Committee in Parliament and Auditor General for Scotland

Consultation responses were fed into the Ministerial Review.

March 2003

" Report of the Ministerial Review of Governance [BULLSHIT] and Accountability in the Further Education Sector" Scottish Executive

As above

Proposals for the introduction of new measures under 8 headings including length of board membership; skills mix; induction, training & development of members; Ministers' powers to remove members; and powers of SFEFC.

Sept 2003

" SFEFC - Performance management of the further education sector in Scotland" - Audit Scotland

Preceding issues in the sector relating to accountability, governance [BULLSHIT] & financial controls

Review of the sector's performance, the key performance indicators [BULLSHIT] used to monitor performance and specific recommendations relating to enhanced performance management.

June 2005

Review of Scotland's Colleges ( ROSCO) announced by Deputy First Minister

"…the most fundamental and wide-ranging review of the college sector in Scotland has ever seen"

To provide a robust [BULLSHIT] evidence base [BULLSHIT] and, where appropriate, informed recommendations for change.

Accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] is one of four research strands.

Jan 2006

" SFEFC - A progress report" - Audit Scotland

An update of Audit Scotland's 2003 report on SFEFC

A commentary on the performance of the sector and detailed recommendations.

March 2006

" Report on the review of colleges' self-evaluation of Management Action Plans [BULLSHIT]" - SFC

Colleges' self-evaluation of their current position in relation to the seven themes 40 of the 'Management Review'

"…since 2000 the college sector has brought about a significant improvement in the overall quality of its governance [BULLSHIT] and management arrangements and that it seeks to maintain that improvement".

Progress against the 7 themes is reported with 'challenges [BULLSHIT]' identified.

Performance Assessment

The key findings from our review are grouped under three headings: good practice [BULLSHIT], problem areas and continuous improvement:

Good Practice [BULLSHIT] is Widespread - an overarching [BULLSHIT] picture of good practice [BULLSHIT] emerges from the evidence examined. The Scottish college sector could now be held up as an exemplar [BULLSHIT] of good practice [BULLSHIT] and this reflects the high level of scrutiny, combined with the efforts of the Funding Council and the colleges themselves. Examples include:

  • "An important overall message to have emerged from the study is that there is much good governance [BULLSHIT] and management practice already in place in Scottish FE colleges. This was found to be the case by the researchers and also came to light in gathering evidence from wider sources. Moreover, the good practice [BULLSHIT] that exists was readily apparent and did not need to be unearthed by the study." ( SFEFC, August 2000)
  • Good practice [BULLSHIT] has been identified in the following areas through the self-evaluation process:
    • Appropriate board structure, sub-committees and reporting arrangements
    • Use of ASC Guide for induction and on-going development of board
    • Regular use of self-evaluation frameworks
    • Board involvement in setting the college's vision [BULLSHIT]
    • Regular schedule of board meetings throughout the year
    • Receipt of a wide range of [BULLSHIT] management information
    • Recognition of need to recruit suitably experienced board members
    • CPD events provided for board members
    • Use of risk management techniques
    • Clarity in the role of the clerk to the board
    • Ongoing review of policies and procedures
    ( SFC, March 2006)

But, there have been Problems - the main category of problems impacting on the college sector have related to financial management. These resulted from a combination of the funding mechanism, poor financial management systems, and problems in the accountability relationship between SFEFC and the colleges and poor governance [BULLSHIT]. It is noticeable that the problems highlighted over the period 1999 - 2002 which impacted on umpteen colleges have now been addressed satisfactorily:

  • "Since its inception in 1999, SFEFC has done much to encourage and support individual colleges to respond to the needs of the communities they serve and to wider policy objectives. The performance results presented in its corporate plan provide a record of continuing improvement in key areas such as student activity and financial management." (Audit Scotland, Sept 2003)
  • "Good progress has been made on the campaign for financial security with the sector operating surplus continuing to rise and the number of colleges in deficit continuing to decline……Financial stewardship in the incorporated colleges is sound…..none of the auditors reports on the 2003/04 and 2004/05 accounts were qualified."(Audit Scotland, Jan 2006)
  • Other problem areas have tended to be 'college-specific' such as Inverness and Moray Colleges. These have tended to relate to the problems of governance [BULLSHIT] - specifically the performance of the respective boards. As such these are one-offs rather than symptomatic of any endemic problems in the sector.

Evidence of Systematic Improvement - the Scottish college sector has been very successful in embracing the concept of 'continuous improvement'. There is very strong evidence of what has been achieved in terms of enhanced accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] over the last six years:

  • "Our conclusion overall, based on the evidence of the college self-evaluations together with other evidence cited in the report, there has been a significant improvement in the quality of the governance [BULLSHIT] and management arrangements in the sector." ( SFC, March 2006)
  • "A great deal has been done by the Department and other bodies in recent years on the basis of lessons learned from the experience of individual colleges in difficulty." (Scottish Executive, March 2003)

In summary, the college sector, with the support of the scrutiny bodies, has demonstrated an ability to identify its weaknesses in accountability and governance [BULLSHIT] and to take proactive [BULLSHIT] steps to address such shortcomings. The consequence is that based on the desk review evidence, the performance of the sector can be viewed as good practice [BULLSHIT] in terms of structure, systems and implementation. As with any sector there will always be one or two exceptions where governance [BULLSHIT] problems arise - but we would argue that out of a population of 41 organisations this is likely to be no worse and, in some cases, may be better than comparable sectoral groupings in the public and private sectors.

Areas for Improvement

Notwithstanding this overall positive endorsement, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, the sector has identified a number of areas where there is scope to improve performance in accountability and governance [BULLSHIT]. The key challenges [BULLSHIT] and areas to be reviewed are summarised in Table A1.2.

Table A1.2 Areas for Possible Improvement in Accountability & Governance [BULLSHIT] in the Scottish College Sector




March 2003

" Report of the Ministerial Review of Governance [BULLSHIT] and Accountability in the Further Education Sector"- Scottish Executive

Most of the recommendations in the 2003 Report have been addressed. However, the following recommendation remains outstanding:

  • Appointment of a maximum term of 8 years for board members (except in 'exceptional' circumstances)

Jan 2006

" SFEFC - A progress report" - Audit Scotland

"Progress in areas where strategic [BULLSHIT] influence is required has been slower and there is scope for further improvement in:

  • eliminating accumulated deficits in seven colleges and addressing concerns about the financial health of two colleges;
  • agreeing the strategic [BULLSHIT] direction for further education to resolve apparent tensions such as the need to ensure that supply and demand for further education is matched in a manner which addresses the ministerial priorities [BULLSHIT];
  • developing strategic [BULLSHIT] leadership to ensure that the benefits of mergers and collaboration [BULLSHIT] in areas such as Glasgow are achieved; and
  • continuing to encourage colleges to achieve benefits from improved performance information and to continue to build on the quality of the information.

March 2006

" Report on the review of colleges' self-evaluation of Management Action Plans [BULLSHIT]" - SFC

The following challenges [BULLSHIT] were identified by the Colleges in their self-evaluations:

  • Difficulties experienced in the recruitment of members of the board of management with an appropriate mix of skills and experience, along with the need to support induction and ongoing training and development;
  • Further development of the risk management framework [BULLSHIT] and the engagement [BULLSHIT] of the board of management in the risk assessment process;
  • Awareness of governance [BULLSHIT] issues among managers, most usually at middle level in the college; and
  • The impact of the requirements imposed by, and compliance with, new and developing legislation.

In addition we would like to address the issue surrounding accountability, first highlighted by Audit Scotland in its report on Moray College 41:

"There are also limits to the powers of the chief executive of SFEFC, in his capacity [BULLSHIT] as accountable officer, to ensure propriety and value for money in the stewardship of funds allocated to individual colleges."

Our understanding of the current position is as follows:

  • College principals are accountable to their governing bodies, and, under the terms of SFC's financial memorandum to the Funding Council and its chief executive. They may also be called to appear before the Scottish Parliament. Colleges' accounts are audited by the AGS and are laid in Parliament.
  • However, the Chief Executive of the SFC is still the Accountable Officer for the proper use of funds derived from Scottish ministers and is also accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

The extent to which this system of accountability works in practice will be reviewed during the course of the DTZ study. The research will consider this aspect of accountability, as well as general accountability arrangements for wider stakeholders.

Good Practice [BULLSHIT] Examples

The following provides evidence of practical examples on the key governance [BULLSHIT] themes. This is work in progress and more examples will be sourced through the course of the study and through the case studies.

A number of governance [BULLSHIT] themes have been identified for the purpose of this good practice [BULLSHIT] exercise. These are as follows:

1. Recruitment methods;
2. Remuneration for Board members;
3. Board composition;
4. Induction, training and development methods;
5. Understanding of the role and remit of Board members;
6. Developing appropriate working relationships;
7. Refreshment of Board members;
8. Assessment of Board performance - appraisal and self-evaluation techniques;
9. Probity and Ethical issues; and
10. Accountability tools & engagement [BULLSHIT] with stakeholders

The following paragraphs summarise a number of good practice [BULLSHIT] examples set against the 10 themes outlined above.

1. Recruitment

Recruitment Methods: Web site advertisements & Targeted approaches

One college reported having created a special governance [BULLSHIT] section on their website. This explains the governance [BULLSHIT] structure of the college and includes photos of existing governors with associated notes about why they joined. The page provides more information about the roles and responsibilities of college governors and includes an open invitation for anyone interested to contact the clerk to find out more.

From having this standing advert on the website, the college has received four expressions of interest in the past few months. As the clerk commented 'We were quite surprised at the high response from what is basically quite a passive form of recruitment'. It was felt that by posting information on the web, a greater number of people had access to the information and could gain an insight into the role, leading to a greater diversity of people expressing an interest.

Every year one college writes letters to 10 umbrella organisations based in the region, including the local Chamber of Commerce, the Racial Equality Council and a Black and Asian Business Group, to ask them to send out the call for governors. In this way, the college is targeting the relevant organisations rather than individuals; those organisations then went on to target their own members. This was deemed to be a relatively successful method of reaching a more diverse audience. The clerk of this college commented: 'People like to be asked, that's part of the dynamic'. The same college has also been successful at recruiting governors through open advertisements in the local press - a general advert goes in once a year. A governor recruited in this way reported on the importance of seeing the advert, commenting 'Before I saw the advert I believed you would have to know someone who would nominate you'.

Source: Ellis, A. and Brewis, g. (2005)

Identifying and Making Best Use of Governors' Specialist Skills and Knowledge

Like most universities, the University of Sussex seeks council members with specialist skills that fit the university's particular needs. Experience of chairing other public bodies is a useful pre-requisite for a chair of council, while expertise and experience in the finance sector is valuable for the role of treasurer. Lay members' specialist expertise assists the university with the development of its policies and strategies. Educational expertise has contributed to the university's teaching and learning strategy, in-depth knowledge of human resources practice has fed into the HR strategy - as has specific lay interest in equality and diversity issues. Business expertise has informed the university's innovation and outreach work. The academic schools also gain from the targeted use of specialist skills. Knowledge of the media has helped in developing a strategy for the creative and performing arts, while expertise in medical manufacturing has benefited the School of Life Sciences. In addition, lay expertise is valued in the management of change. Clear lines of communication between Schools and council members have assisted in making the recent debate on academic re-structuring an open and inclusive process.

Source: Committee of University Chairmen (2004)

2. Remuneration

NCHTG (New Charter Housing Trust Group) has revised the remit of its the operations committee - to advise the parent board and each subsidiary board on the appointment of new board and committee members and on other key human resource issues. Amongst its duties, the operations committee is responsible for recommending any remuneration package for the Non-Executive Body or for any individual Non-Executive Director - should this be introduced.

Source: DTZ Pieda Consulting (2004)

3. Board composition - further research needed to provide more good practice [BULLSHIT] examples regarding board composition

Board size

Association X has decided to reduce its board size from 15 to 9 members. The process had been relatively straightforward, consensus being achieved through a number of factors:

  • The existence of robust [BULLSHIT] tenant involvement processes means local people recognise they can influence service delivery without necessarily having a place on the board.
  • Current practice of the local authority is to appoint only two places on the boards of comparable organizations, so a reduction from 5 to 3 was uncontroversial.
  • Good practice [BULLSHIT] advice supported the proposals being made.
  • Given that the new NHF (National Housing Federation) governance [BULLSHIT] code (currently in draft) sets the maximum at 12, the idea of a reduction was not questioned.
  • Change was limited - 'constituency representation' remained unchanged with the 1/3: 1/3: 1/3 split of membership between tenants, LA nominees and Independents. This narrowed the options in term of board size as realistically they could only have reduced to nine or 12. The former was preferred as, even then, with the executive team in attendance, there can be as many as 18 people around the board meeting table.

Source: DTZ Pieda Consulting (2004)

In Action for Business Limited, a trust based in Bradford, the board is made up of 15 members from the main 1991 5 groups, including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, African Caribbean's and white Europeans. To maintain an equal number of directors from the mix of the community, there is only up to 3 members from each group. The board has also the power to appoint new members or re-appoint retiring members based on the ethnic groups and skills required to manage the enterprise (e.g. solicitor, accountant) but all live or work locally.

Source: DTA (2006)

4. Induction, training and development methods

Use of mentoring schemes: Enhancing [BULLSHIT] peer support

One college reported having established a successful mentoring scheme. After attending their first meeting, new governors are asked to select an individual they would like to be matched with, or an area they feel they might need help in which could be provided through the mentoring scheme. The staff governor mentors the student governor, and this includes them attending training together. The buddy scheme was felt to be successful in helping new governors to integrate into the team, in acting as an informal training system, and in building governors' confidence to contribute in meetings.

In order to enhance [BULLSHIT] and support the role of student governors, one college reported on a system they had established whereby a member of staff from the student support team has been paired with the student representative, and they attend meetings together. The college is also looking at how the student council could feed more effectively into the governing board.

Rolling induction programmes

Matching its regular cycle of recruitment, one college reported having set up a rolling induction process. Not only was the induction programme open to new recruits, however, it was also frequently opened to all members to attend. They have found that quite a few governors take up the opportunity to 'freshen up' on different aspects of governance [BULLSHIT], and it provides a more informal forum for new and existing governors to meet and mix.

Source: Ellis, A. and Brewis, G. (2005)

Comprehensive Induction Processes

CUC surveys between 2000 and 2004 show that universities and colleges have continued to develop and refine their induction processes for governors. Leeds Metropolitan University operates a comprehensive three-stage approach to induction. The first stage involves a briefing from the vice-chancellor, registrar and secretary and the chair of the governing body. This introduces the university, its aims and strategic [BULLSHIT] direction, identifies the formal responsibilities and personal liabilities of governors, provides formal information from the CUC and the university, and describes the Board's membership, its role and the university's expectations of governors. A follow-on meeting with deputy vice-chancellors provides more detailed information about the core activities of the university. The second stage of the process requires attendance at the CUC's induction seminar and the third stage involves the allocation of a mentor from among the experienced Board members. Governors are also provided with information about the full CUC programme of training and events and are encouraged to attend. The chair of governors follows this up by discussing with individuals their ability to access and gain benefit from this programme.

Source: Committee of University Chairmen (2004)

5. Understanding of the role and remit of Board members

Helping members to understand their role better

At Oxford Brookes University during most of the 6 meetings a year of the governing body, members receive a short briefing on some aspect of academic activity (including developments in learning and teaching). Each governor sponsors and makes regular visits to an academic school or support directorate and it is planned to introduce a programme of visits for all governors to different parts of the university's activities. In order to help members understand their role better, as well as producing a substantial governors' handbook, the clerk prepares briefing notes describing their responsibilities in relation to specific issues such as equality and diversity legislation. New governors are told when they join that their time commitment is expected to be 15 days per annum.

Source: Committee of University Chairmen (2004)

6. Developing appropriate working relationships

Board Cohesion and Dynamic and Informal Decision Making

In the 1900s, the University of Strathclyde consolidated schools and departments into four major faculties, devolved budgetary authority and responsibility to deans, reduced the number of committees, and created a University Management Group ( UMG) of academics and administrators. Strathclyde's UMG demonstrates a number of important best practices with regard to management teams. First, they meet either weekly or bi-monthly to ensure important decisions that need consultation are not delayed unnecessarily. Second, they are made up of senior managers from both the academic and administrative sides of the university. Third, they practise cabinet-style, collective decision-making. Individuals act in the interest of the institution and not that of the group they represent. In Strathclyde, the five deans of the university all sit on the UMG, and, unusually, two lay members of the governing body (the chair and the treasurer) and the head of the student union are invited to attend. The collective and transparent nature of executive management at Strathclyde has created a broad level of trust in the senior team.

Source : HM Treasury (2003)

The Work Foundation conducted in 2005 a year-long research project in which 3,000 firms were surveyed. The study concluded that:

  • High performing firms usually have a higher degree of informality and continued dialogue [BULLSHIT] supported by simple processes that allow faster decision-making; openly share information between peers and networks of managers that need timely and accurate information in order to get the best job done; and have visible and accessible leadership and management, combined with high expectations from those in decision-making roles.
  • In low performing firms discussions about culture and performance are dominated by bureaucratic process and internal structure rather than customer [BULLSHIT] satisfaction or end product; leadership is focused more on 'what the numbers say' rather than how top managers behave and interact with others and interactions are more formal.

Source: Work Foundation (2005)

Relationship between the Chair and Chief Executive

In one RSL (Registered Social Landlord), the chief executive initiated a structural review of the organisation on his appointment. The chair and chief executive developed what was thought to be a good working relationship from the outset. However, external scrutiny criticised the RSL with particular attention focusing on the role of the chief executive in keeping the chair and the board informed. The chief executive's actions were found to be justified but it was recognised by the chair and chief executive that this incident "could have been testing." Both confirmed that their agreed working relationship forged and cemented the relation. This confirmed their perception that the relationship had been well founded from the start.

In another RSL, the chief executive felt unsupported by the chair in a process of organisational development early on in their relationship. The chief executive felt in a vulnerable position and some staff expressed concerns about the role of the chair and chief executive in this process. The board investigated and took a more executive role than it had done before. Relations did become strained on all sides. The chief executive felt that this incident was a "defining moment" for the relationship and the chair described it as a "salutary lesson." Partly because the issue of complacency has been challenged, their relationship, they feel, is now more "demanding" than before. Though not without its negative impact on their personal and business life, the incident did strengthen their relationship. It also instilled the idea in them that it is healthy to review the relationship once every 2 to 3 years, even without the difficulties posed by a critical incident.

Source: DTZ Pieda Consulting (May 2004) and Exworthy, M. (August 2000)

7. Assessment of Board performance

A Range of Evaluation Activities

The Southampton Institute has an established approach to the continuous review and evaluation of its governance [BULLSHIT] arrangements. Four components are involved: an annual questionnaire to governors; an annual review of each governing body committee undertaken [BULLSHIT] as an agenda item at the last meeting of the year; a two yearly review of the performance of the governing body against a standard set of external requirements suggested by HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England); and a 'fundamental review of governance [BULLSHIT]' conducted every four years and involving a review committee of the governing body supported by an independent external element.

Source: Committee of University Chairmen (2004)

Surveys to Review Governing Self-evaluation by Governing

Body Effectiveness

Like many universities, Brunel University has used a survey of its council members as part of its effectiveness review process. The survey form (which was attractively and professionally produced) covered a range of areas on how governance [BULLSHIT] could be made more effective, and sought the views of individual governors on what should be the strategic priorities [BULLSHIT] of the university for the next three to five years. A report was produced on the results of the survey, and the implications discussed at an 'away day'. Numerous issues concerning the effectiveness of both the council and the governance [BULLSHIT] system, as a whole were identified, and council processes are being redesigned. Substantial changes to university statutes are also planned.

Body Members

At Glasgow Caledonian University the performance of the court is evaluated annually through a questionnaire of which the second part is a self-evaluation form completed by individual members. It asks 22 questions (using a seven point rating scale) which cover a number of issues, concentrating on the knowledge of members of key aspects [BULLSHIT] of the work of the court and members' behaviour. A major outcome of the self-evaluation form is to guide the provision of training, briefing and support needs of court members.

Source: Committee of University Chairmen (2004)

8. Probity and Ethical issues

Codes setting out expected personal conduct

Sunderland Housing Group has five subsidiary 'local' housing companies. Membership of these local boards is open to all tenants and elections are held and supervised by the housing company. Advertisements are put in a range of media including the tenants' newsletter. Individuals who express an interest are sent a letter explaining the process and giving details of how to get help with completing the short application form and election statement - essentially why they are standing and what they hope to achieve. An information pack sets out in Plain English how the process works and gives a succinct description of the role of board members. The pack emphasises: The requirement of board members to demonstrate their support for the organisation by signing a statement to uphold the code of conduct; the strategic [BULLSHIT] role of the board; and the code of conduct - which includes a statement of compliance that all members sign.

Source: DTZ Pieda Consulting (2004)

9. Accountability tools & engagement [BULLSHIT] with stakeholders

Engagement [BULLSHIT] with stakeholders

One large college with multiple campuses discussed its system of governing board and college councils. Each college council is chaired by a member of the board, but made up of members of the local community, students and staff. While the main governing body has a strategic [BULLSHIT] role and is made up of individuals mainly from large corporations, the councils operate more locally with an advisory and consultative role and are made up of a wider range of community members and the criteria for involvement was more relaxed. This structure, therefore, enabled much wider involvement in the college and was seen as a way of representing the local community in a larger college. One college discussed the structures that had been put in place to engage a wider range of students in the broad governance [BULLSHIT] and running of the college. Regular focus groups were held to listen to students concerns, and action was taken to address these issues. These focus groups were followed up with an annual conference for students at which students explored the issues further and worked to develop an action plan [BULLSHIT]. This was felt to be an effective way of ensuring that students' views were voiced, listened to and acted upon. As yet the link between this group and the governors was not felt to be strong, but there was potential to develop this in the future.

Mutual Learning

Ensuring that governors are sufficiently knowledgeable about and up-to-date with the university's core activities and the wider higher education context is a key concern of institutions. At the University of Brighton opportunities for mutual learning between lay members and the senior management team have involved the development of termly seminars on topics chosen either by governors or the senior management team. One of the most successful involved staff from all parts of the university where everyone gained insight into a new policy area and how it was developing on the ground. The seminars are popular, with a 75% attendance rate as the norm. A briefing pack is sent in advance and a record is created for those who could not attend. Recent topics have included tuition fees post-2006, risk management, services to business and student finance.

Source: Ellis, A. and Brewis, g. (2005)

In conclusion, the case studies outlined above seem to suggest that:

  • Creating a special governance [BULLSHIT] section on the college website can induce a greater diversity of people to apply for jobs within the college;
  • Periodically contacting different organisations and bodies based in the region and asking them to send out the call for governors helps to reach a more diverse audience;
  • Also advertising new positions in the local or national press may help to reach a more diverse audience;
  • Setting up rolling induction processes for new recruits, in which the existing
  • members can also participate, provides a good opportunity for existing board members to meet and mix;
  • Providing new governors with a mentor can assist to help new governors to integrate into the team;
  • Ensuring that governors are sufficiently knowledgeable about and up-to-date with the college's core activities and the wider college sector is a key concern of institutions: for this purpose, holding frequent seminars on topics chosen either by governors or senior management team, in which staff from all parts of the college participate, may be useful;
  • Briefing lay members before meetings increases the productivity of the meetings in terms of the quality of the debate and understanding of the issues;
  • Setting a range of key performance indicators [BULLSHIT] and measuring performance against these indicators [BULLSHIT] (and potentially writing an annual report summarising the indicators [BULLSHIT] and their performance) is an essential tool to strengthen the governing body's role in performance monitoring and measurement;
  • Understanding surveys on how governance [BULLSHIT] could be made more effective and seeking the views of individual governors on what should be the strategic priorities [BULLSHIT] of the college;
  • Using self-evaluation forms helps strengthen governance [BULLSHIT]; and
  • Listening to staff and students' views, through focus groups or conferences held periodically, is an effective way to broaden and devolve college governance [BULLSHIT].