Most new universities will be legally obliged to include at least one student and one academic staff member on their governing boards under planned changes to legislation.
In February, the Association of Heads of University Administration proposed changes to Schedule 7A of the Education Reform Act to scrap limits on the size of boards at post-1992 institutions constituted as higher education corporations. Under the current rules, HECs are required to have between 12 and 24 board members.
The proposals coincided with the publication of a report by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, which said that some universities "find the membership of boards too large for effective meetings ... and see the membership of staff and students as a constraint on taking a rigorous strategic view".
The now-defunct Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills subsequently indicated that the revisions recommended by the AHUA would be implemented this summer.
However, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, complained that there had been no consultation with staff and students over the proposed reforms.
"The UCU fears that the revision is being proposed so staff and student representatives can be removed from post-92 higher education bodies," she said.
Now, in a briefing for universities, law firm Pinsent Masons, co-author of the proposals with the AHUA, has revealed that ministers have "reconsidered the question of making it compulsory to include both staff and student members" on HEC boards. The briefing says that the proposed new version of Schedule 7A would make it compulsory to include at least one of each.
Meanwhile at King's College London, the UCU is opposing plans to remove elected staff members from its board and replace them with hand-picked members.
Under plans tabled by the college, the council will now consist of 12 lay members, eight staff members and King's student union president.
However, members of staff will be selected rather than elected, as was the case.