Governance 'needs fusion'

November 28, 2003

Governance of higher education in the 21st century needs to fuse academic mission with executive capacity, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A study of trends in university governance over recent years warns against substituting one for the other.

The OECD's 2003 Education Policy Analysis says that greater university autonomy has been tempered by the introduction of mechanisms to monitor and control performance.

But it dismisses as "simplistic" the view that higher education reform always leads to greater autonomy. "Rather, it has often substituted one form of influence and control by government for another."

The report warns that traditional participatory and collegial bodies have lost authority as power has switched to the rector, vice-chancellor and other figures within the administration.

Pressure for change has become more acute as public funding has become more targeted while autonomy has grown in line with a demand for accountability.

The report also confirms a growing trend for univer-sity leaders to be appointed rather than elected.

"The change is a crucial part of the redefinition of the relationship between the chief executive and others within the institution. An appointed rather than elected chief executive may find it easier to implement major changes that cut across vested interests," it says.

But the report concludes: "University leadership will fail if it leaves 'academic' interests behind."

Copies of the report are available from: Education Policy Analysis 2003, OECD Publications Service, 2 rue Andre-Pascal, 75775 Paris, Cedex 16, France.

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