Governing bodies on road to 'Nolanness'

November 17, 1995

The governing bodies of further and higher education institutions need to be broader and more open, but there is little need for more outside scrutiny of their activities, the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life was told this week.

Employers, union leaders and funding council chiefs agreed that while safeguards were necessary to prevent the creation of self-perpetuating, unaccountable boards, these were best built on the basis of self-regulation, rather than external monitoring.

Evidence presented on Tuesday, the first day of the committee's hearings for its study on local public spending bodies, suggested that both the further and higher education sectors were already well on the road to what one witness described as "Nolanness" - or open and accountable systems of governance.

Sir Geoffrey Holland, vice-chancellor of Exeter University and former permanent secretary at the Employment Department and Department for Education, said higher education had reacted swiftly to crisis cases such as that experienced at Huddersfield University, putting in place a new code of practice from the Committee of University Chairmen.

And he warned against the introduction of new regulatory mechanisms, arguing that too many had already been introduced by the funding council, which was "in danger of stifling organic growth" in the sector.

Derek Betts, head of policy for Natfhe, the university and college lecturers' union, said his union was looking for a wider representative base in governing bodies, so that staff, students and local community groups were involved in decision-making.

Keith Scribbins, chairman of the Colleges' Employers' Forum said that while there were difficulties in building representative bodies in some areas, self-regulation was better than more inspection.

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