UUK: cast net wide for top staff

May 21, 2004

University chiefs have been urged to look outside the old boys' network for their senior managers in a new set of guidelines designed to improve the quality and diversity of leadership in the sector.

The guide, published this week by Universities UK, also advises the sector to remove the decision-making over top appointments from metaphorical smoke-filled rooms and to open up deliberations to the scrutiny of failed applicants.

Ivor Crewe, president of UUK, said: "Universities are moving into a new era, and we need to ensure that it is the very best who are leading and managing UK higher education."

The report, from UUK, the Standing Conference of Principals and the Committee of University Chairmen, comes amid concerns about the lack of diversity in university management. While 13 per cent of the heads of higher education institutions in UUK are women, only 8 per cent of university vice-chancellors - 10 out of 122 - are women. There is not a single black or Asian vice-chancellor.

Lecturers' union Nathfe said the guidelines were "long overdue". "It is good if universities are starting to put their house in order to address the gross imbalance of white men running the sector. But it will not be good if they simply bring in more white men from the private sector, or women who perpetuate the 'macho' top-down management culture that pervades and allows bullying to take place," said Roger Kline, head of Natfhe's universities department.

The guide, Appointing Senior Managers in Higher Education: A Guide to Best Practice , calls on the sector to "improve the rigour and transparency of senior management appointments".

It urges a cautious approach to "network contacts", who should be treated in the same way as those applying for the job through advertisements.

It suggests that in formulating job specifications managers should avoid familiar stereotypes of the kind of person they are seeking. "Are there any duties that have traditionally been associated with this post but are no longer essential?" it asks.

Joyce Hill, director of another partner behind the guide, the Equality Challenge Unit, said: "The big thrust in the guide is about not locking yourself into an old mindset, but looking for broad ranges of experience, and not simply repeating the job description you used last time, but reassessing how the jobs are changing and what kind of experience you would need to put in those posts."

She added: "We go back to the question - is there stereotypical thinking, are we thinking as widely and as laterally as we can, and are we not only being fair but being seen to be fair?"

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

SEVEN GUIDING PRINCIPLES

The recruitment process should:

* Clearly list job criteria and judge each candidate against them

* Be consistent and objective in gathering, judging and recording evidence on each candidate

* Seek to select from a diverse pool of candidates

* Ensure that everyone understands equal opportunities

* Ensure the process does not disadvantage any applicant

* Give all applicants a clear understanding of the institution and what is expected of them

* Leave all candidates with a good image of the institution

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