Cracking the code

December 18, 2014

I was surprised to read in the article on university governance (“Where next for university governance?”, www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, 4 December) Ferdinand von Prondzynski’s suggestion that the sector should “initiate a process that will lead to the drafting of a new code”.

The project to revise the Committee of University Chairs guidance on governance predates Professor von Prondzynski’s review of two years ago. We recognised that the existing CUC code, while still useful and pretty comprehensive (evidenced by the fact that the Scottish code draws heavily on it) needed to be updated to reflect the substantial changes in higher education that have taken place since it was published in 2004. We wanted to be sure we produced the best code that we could, so we used consultants with wide and deep higher education experience to critique the existing code and produce an initial draft, which synthesised the best practice across a range of sectors. We have since refined it to reflect consultation with senior sector leaders including vice-chancellors and principals, chairs, registrars and, crucially, the regulators. The final version of the new code, which has the overwhelming support not only of CUC members but also the Association of Heads of University Administration, Universities UK and the funding councils as being wholly fit for purpose in the new environment, was published on the CUC’s website this week.

The CUC remains of the view that the success of the UK’s world-class higher education system is based on a diversity of independent institutions, underpinned by effective governance systems that have at their heart a strong relationship of trust between the governing body, the executive and the stakeholders they serve. Given that diversity, we strongly believe that a code based on principles and outcomes, which individual institutions can adapt to meet their own individual circumstances, is preferable to any suggestion that there is a single set of rules and processes that can be imposed by legislation.

Sir Nicholas Montagu
Chair, Executive Committee
Committee of University Chairs

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