Staff governors' role

July 28, 1995

David Charter's article on staff governors like the beginnings of an archaeological dig, unearths issues of much deeper significance.

Should the governance model of universities and colleges be based on a large board of representatives or a smaller board of independent individuals? If it is the latter, there may be less objection to the inclusion of staff members by co-option, rather than their appointment as a result of staff elections.

Next, what is the purpose of effective governance? If it is to take corporate decisions for the good of the community in a way which strikes a balance of authority between management and the governing body, it may be questioned what the consequence of appointing more staff governors is likely to be - if not to blur the distinctive roles of governors and principal.

Finally, there is the holy grail of greater accountability which most commentators on governance raise as an issue, but promptly leave suspended in mid-air, without offering any answers.

How can governing bodies be made more responsive to the communities which they serve and less self-perpetuating? Why should staff governors be more reliable "whistle blowers" than any other category of governor, and, when the non-executive whistle is blown, is it not often a case of shutting the stable gate after the finances have bolted?

The process whereby governing bodies plan, train and replenish their membership and report to and involve in dialogue the community at large is likely to be a more fruitful area for investigation than the appointment of more staff governors.

The quest for more accountable governance calls for a creative debate which looks forward to the development of new governance models suited to the next century, rather than dusting off old models which evolved in an age of gown and candle.

JOHN T. HALL

Education law department

Eversheds

Solicitors

London

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