Governance, Leadership and Management in UniversitiesGareth Evans, Chancellor, Australian National University
What is the shape of power inuniversity governanceWho has the power in decisionmaking processesHow are visions and goals turned into management systemsHow do governance and management work together
The formal powers of Australian universities are, on the face of the Acts establishing them, extraordinarily wide-ranging.
For example:University of Sydney Act 1989, s. 16 (1A)(b)The Senate “has the control and management of the affairs and concerns of the University”University of Melbourne Act 2009, s. 8 (2) (b)The Council “has the general direction and superintendence of the University”Australian National University Act 1991, s. 9 (1)The Council “ has the entire control and management of the University”
But a better guide to the powers intended to be actually exercised lie in other provisions, viz lists identifying functions which cannot be delegated, or ‘primary’ responsibilities
Functions which cannot be delegatede.g.Australian National University Act, s. 17 (3)The council must not delegate its power to:(a) appoint the Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor; or(b) approve the University’s annual budget or its business plan; or(c) approve the annual report of the University; or(d) monitor its commercial activities, and its subsidiaries and any other entities that it controls, to the extent required to ensure they do not have any significant adverse impact on, or pose an unreasonable risk to, the University’s finances and operations; or(e) review and monitor the management of the University as a whole or the University’s performance as a university (as defined by theHigher Education Support Act 2003)
Identificationof “primary responsibilities”
e.g. University of Melbourne Act, s.8 (3)The primary responsibilities of the Council include-(a) appointing and monitoring the performance of the Vice-Chancellor as chief executive officer of the University;(b) approving the mission and strategic direction of the University and its annual budget and business plan;(c) overseeing and reviewing the management of the University and its performance;(d) establishing policy and procedural principles for the operation of the University consistent with legal requirements and community expectations;(e) approving and monitoring systems of control and accountability of the University, including those required to maintain a general overview of any entity over which the University has control within the meaning of section 3 of the Audit Act 1994;(f) overseeing and monitoring the assessment and management of risk across the University, including university commercial activities;(g) overseeing and monitoring the academic activities of the University;(h) approving any significant university commercial activities.
These ‘real’ responsibilities are essentially now embodied in theVoluntary Code of Best Practice for the Governance of Australian Universities
2. A university’s governing body should adopt a statement of its primary responsibilities, to include:(a) appointing the Vice-Chancellor as the Chief Executive Officer of the university, and monitoring his/her performance;(b) appointing other senior officers of the university as considered appropriate;(c) approving the mission and strategic direction of the university, as well as the annual budget and business plan;(d) overseeing and reviewing the management of the university and its performance;(e) establishing policy and procedural principles, consistent with legal requirements and community expectations;(f) approving and monitoring systems of control and accountability, including general overview of any controlled entities. A controlled entity is one that satisfies the test of control in s.50AA of theCorporations Act;(g) overseeing and monitoring the assessment and management of risk across the university, including commercial undertakings;(h) overseeing and monitoring the academic activities of the university;(i) approving significant commercial activities of the university.A university’s governing body, while retaining its ultimate governance responsibilities, may have an appropriate system of delegations to ensure the effective discharge of these responsibilities.
The three basic responsibilities of governing bodies
Strategic Oversight:approving the mission and strategic direction of the universityensuring that visions and goals are turned into effective management systemsmonitoring implementation of the strategic planEnsuring Effective Overall Management:appointing the VC and monitoring his or her performanceoverseeing and reviewing overall management performancemonitoring the academic activities and performance of the universityEnsuring Responsible Financial and Risk Management:approving the annual budgetapproving and monitoring systems of control and accountabilityoverseeing and monitoring the assessment and management of riskensuring compliance with legal and government policy requirements
What makes for effective governing bodies
Membership basicsmanageable sizeright combination of qualifications and experienceright combination of continuity and renewalInduction – and continuing educationin formal obligations under Corporations legislationin understanding basic roles of governing bodyin understanding limitations of “representative” rolesystematic exposure to main areas of university operationMeeting conductwell prepared papersno longer – or shorter – than necessaryreal debate – not meandering soliloquiesRegular self-evaluation
UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE ISSUES: SOME CASES FOR DISCUSSION
The Chancellor has concluded that, given her assessment of the Vice-Chancellor’s continuing performance, the time has come to terminate the appointment (consistent with the V-C’s contract of appointment). However, on sounding out Council members individually, she finds that there is not majority support for termination. What should the Chancellor do? Resign? And if she resigns what are the implications for the governance of the University? If the Chancellor decides to bring her concerns to a Council meeting, what is the appropriate way to do this? What could be possible outcomes from such a meeting?The Vice-Chancellor proposes abolition of the Faculties and Deans and replacement by Pro Vice-Chancellors and Schools. Not surprisingly, the incumbent Deans are opposed and, after meeting with the Chancellor (a meeting of which the Vice-Chancellor was not informed), the Chancellor agrees that the Deans be given an opportunity to voice their opinion at a Council meeting. Is this good practice? How is the Vice-Chancellor likely to react to such a decision? From a Council point of view, how might it have been best handled?From a set of ‘vignettes’ distributed for discussion at the 7th National Conference on University Governance sponsored by the University Chancellors Conference, RMIT University, 12-13 October 2010.