The annual Natfhe conference has been taking place this week in Torquay, David Charter reports from the frontline Lecturers' union Natfhe wants positive action to boost the number of women governors after a survey of new universities revealed less than one in five board members are female.
The union's survey, which had replies from half the country's higher education colleges and new universities, also found only a quarter of governing bodies had any ethnic minority representation.
It also showed the average board comprises 20 members with an average of two academic staff and one student.
The survey was answered by governors' clerks or branch officers at 46 institutions, including 25 universities.
The average proportion of women is 19 per cent and 32 of the 46 institutions have no ethnic minority governors.
In one institution an active Natfhe member had been removed from the board.
There were complaints about minimal minutes being available for staff but good practice included "link governors" reporting back to every faculty.
One chair of governors is said to receive Pounds 5,000 "expenses" without having to make claims.
The survey backs a call already made by Natfhe for good practice on representation and dissemination of information to be set out in legislation and a code.
An independent survey of governors at further education colleges commissioned by Natfhe, likely to be ready in September, is expected to show there has been a fall in staff representation.