Power in European universities shifts to governing boards

Some countries have introduced gender quotas, while many have reduced state control, report finds

August 3, 2018
Board meeting silhouettes
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Boards of governors are gaining more power over universities in European countries, sometimes at the expense of academic senates, according to an analysis.

The research by the European University Association also detected moves towards a more equal gender balance at the top of universities, plus greater freedom from state influence.

University systems across Europe are giving “board-type bodies more power through different avenues”, concludes “University governance: autonomy, structures and inclusiveness”, drawing on the EUA’s annual scorecards on how institutions are governed.

In the Czech Republic, for example, boards of trustees now have the power to approve budgets. At two Estonian universities, recent changes mean that boards have more power than academic senates. Meanwhile, in Austria, professors no longer make up the majority of members on university governing bodies, making way for representatives of other groups.

There is also “particular evidence” that university governance is changing when it comes to gender equality, the analysis, published in European Higher Education Area: The Impact of Past and Future Policies, also finds.

Since 2014, Austrian rectorates, senates and councils have to be at least half female, while in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, the requirement is 40 per cent.

Twelve out of 22 countries studied have also changed universities’ organisational autonomy in a “significant” way in the past five years in an attempt to increase “efficiency, save resources and minimise the administrative burden”.

Universities have been allowed more legal freedom from the state – but more external members now sit on their boards, it finds.


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Reader's comments (1)

That doesn't sound much like governance. Governors are not supposed to run the place.