Governing business, managing change

February 10, 1995

The call for the governance of the "new" universities to be modelled on that of the "old" universities (THES, January ) is highly questionable, as is Liz Allen's conclusion (THES, January 13) that the model in "new" universities and colleges is "inherently unsatisfactory and fails to protect against bad practice".

At most institutions the governance model established by the Education Reform Act 1988 is working as well as can be expected at what is still an early stage in the evolutionary process. The model needs to be developed and not replaced. It differs significantly from the governance model adopted by most businesses, the limited company, which evolved over not six but 150 years. In particular, the new-style instrument and articles contain important protections against the misuse of executive power by separating the responsibilities of the governing body from those of the chief executive and the academic board. It would be a mistake to imagine that there is a "Holy Grail" for good governance to be found in the constitution of the traditional universities, which have not had to contend with change on such a scale.

JOHN T. HALL

Head of education law department

Eversheds, London

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