City plans 'corporate' overhaul of executive

November 25, 2005

City University is set to reduce drastically the size of its decision-making and governing bodies, in what are claimed to be the most radical governance reforms in the higher education sector to date.

According to the university's vice-chancellor, the changes will see the institution's senior committees currently "stuck in a Sixties time warp" transformed into a "cutting-edge corporate model".

The university will reduce its governing body from 21 members to six, cut its ruling senate from 47 staff to 30 and halve its eight other senior committees if the proposals get the final seal of approval. It will rewrite its statutes and charters so that they are in "plain English" and just six pages long, a quarter the length of existing documents.

The vice-chancellor, David Rhind, said too many universities sheltered their decision-makers in large committees rather than holding them accountable for their decisions. He said: "I believe this is the most radical restructuring of a university's governance in the country.

"Above all, this new model makes the distinction between management and governance clear. Before, the same people were on the committees as were on the governing body.

"We needed a governance structure that made clear who was accountable to what as opposed to sheltering people behind big committees."

The proposals have been approved by the university's committees and are expected to be given final consent by its privy council in two months.

Professor Rhind added: "If a committee agrees something and the decision turns out to be a bad one, no one is accountable. That just can't happen when you are talking about finances or the quality of a degree. People must be held accountable."

He said that universities now had to make quicker decisions than ever before and that was best done when there were fewer members on their councils, senates and committees.

A spokesperson from City's Association of University Teachers' branch said:

"We have been given an assurance by the vice-chancellor that there was a distinction between governance and management committees, and assured that the new structure of management committees would continue to offer the same opportunities for discussion and input in decision-making."

Some universities have senates with more than 200 members.

Sir John Carter, chairman of the Committee of University Chairmen, said:

"Many universities have been reviewing the effectiveness of their governance structures in the sector. It is always good practice to do this at regular intervals."

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