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A Framework for Higher Education in Scotland: Higher Education Review Phase 2


A Framework for Higher Education in Scotland: Higher Education Review Phase 2

6 Governance and Management

Main messages

To achieve our vision for higher education, institutions will need to be well-managed and well-governed organisations which motivate, value and reward their staff. Leadership skills will be required at all levels and good management and business systems must be in place, while governing bodies have a key role in helping institutions develop their strengths, remain relevant and strategic in their thinking and planning, and be responsive to the needs of learners, employers, staff and wider society. This will require:

  • strong leadership and effective management at the top of institutions;
  • effective intervention and scrutiny by governing bodies;
  • improving understanding of the role of professional administrators and managers in higher education, and ensuring they have the right developmental support;
  • clear articulation of institutional strategy and its contribution to national priorities;
  • improving leadership and management skills at department and faculty levels, enhancing the development and delivery of staff training and development for all staff;
  • maximising the effective use of assets within and across institutions;
  • more sharing of specialist non-academic expertise to ensure available resources are used to provide the best possible quality of support;
  • appropriate accountability.

Governing bodies: Effective governing bodies are crucial to the development and delivery of relevant, robust and strategic aims in institutions, for protecting their long-term financial health, for monitoring the quality of their management, and for assuring that institutions are contributing to the Executive's overall goals for the sector. Governing bodies are also critical to ensuring that HEIs are properly accountable to a range of funders and other stakeholders.

It is important that governors are representative of the wide range of communities that institutions serve and actively question and shape institutional mission and ethos, ensuring responsiveness to the needs of learners, employers and communities. Increasingly for some their community may have a large international element and therefore being able to tap into an international perspective may be important. It is equally important that a governing body has, collectively, a broad range of experience and expertise which it can bring to bear to the institution's advantage - providing the constructive criticism and challenge which institutional managers value from their governing bodies. It is crucial that institutions can attract governors of the right calibre for the task.

Governors - other than governors serving by virtue of office - serve in a voluntary capacity. In order to attract talented people to serve as governors, institutions need to have sufficient freedom to shape their own direction within the wider strategic framework so that governing bodies have genuinely rewarding work to do.

The right of rectors 32 of the four "ancient" universities to chair meetings of the governing bodies was raised during the course of the review. The Executive notes that the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee has suggested that the Committee may conduct a review of higher education governance in the next Parliament. The Executive believes if any changes are to be considered to this uniquely Scottish arrangement, then including this in any Parliamentary Committee inquiry would provide the most appropriate forum for that debate. The Executive does not have a view on whether the current arrangements need to change and recognises that there is a strength of feeling on both sides.

To progress this we will:

  • 6.1 Ask SHEFC to continue to review regularly the guidance and training provided for governors to ensure that they are prepared for and effective in their roles. Also ask SHEFC to update regularly the "Guide for Members of Governing Bodies of Scottish Higher Education Institutions and Good Practice Benchmarks" and to make it clear that all institutions should draw on this in providing support for the members of governing bodies.
  • 6.2 Encourage SHEFC to continue to develop and extend its Strategic Dialogue process, as a unique forum which brings together the Chairs of governing bodies as well as the Principals of all HEIs.

Leadership and Management: The key to delivering the high quality teaching and research that Scotland needs is having well-managed, valued and motivated staff in our institutions, and sound business practices. For institutions to be able to recognise and prepare effectively for future challenges, to develop and successfully plan and implement change while empowering and developing staff, strong and purposeful leadership is essential. High quality management should be pervasive.

While good governance - setting strategic direction and the financial framework - falls to the governing body, the day-to-day management of the institution is a matter for the Principal and his or her team.

There is a need for strong and purposeful leadership at the top of every institution. Institutions need actively to plan succession and develop the skills of those who are going be future institutional leaders. While the Principal is most often the public face of an institution, institutional leaders need to be supported by highly motivated and professional academic and administrative staff who themselves should have access to good developmental support and career development. For example, this review has brought out that the role of the Secretary in many of our HEIs is pivotal, involving a delicate balance between their duties to the governing body and their duties to the Principal. Secretaries form the bridge between the two and tend to remain in post for longer periods than either Principals or Chairs of governing bodies. If HEIs are to be adaptable and flexible organisations managing institutional and cultural change effectively, then Secretaries will play an important role, both in terms of their significant direct areas of responsibility as managers, and in supporting a positive relationship between governors and Principals.

And across institutions as a whole, training and development of staff - especially those in managerial roles - is critical to good human resource management and the effective use of resources. Good, structured management training and development for those taking on managerial roles for the first time has not always been as available as it should be. Providing good quality training and support for those taking on responsibilities at departmental head level, and equivalent, should be recognised as a core responsibility of all institutions.

The Higher Education Staff Development Agency is a membership-based UK-wide organisation. As the current lead body for developing the skills, training and qualifications of people working in higher education, HESDA is committed to the promotion of strategically planned staff development and training provision across universities and colleges and other strategic human resource initiatives across the UK. HESDA has recently worked to develop programmes aimed specifically at heads of departments and schools. There are currently proposals to merge HESDA into a larger "Leadership Foundation" for higher education. www.hesda.org.uk

As the key resource, staff themselves have to be well-managed, valued and motivated. While overall pay levels and the fair implementation of pay systems are part of the picture, a whole range of non-pay related issues including: the quality of day to day management, job structures, feedback on performance, opportunities for development and progression and job satisfaction should all be recognised as key issues. We recognise that as part of this the quality of the research and teaching environment and overall levels of funding generally are important - but the core responsibility for creating a positive working environment rests with institutional managers.

Non-academic staff in specialist, technical, clerical and manual roles are as important to the good running of an institution and the delivery of its mission as are academic staff. It is vital that the contribution made by them is equally valued and that they too benefit from good management, opportunities for progression, training and appropriate development.

To progress this we will:

  • 6.3 Expect all institutions to recognise that good management and leadership across institutions is fundamental and to demonstrate their commitment to good practice in the management of human resources.
  • 6.4 Expect all institutions to meet their legal obligations for equal opportunities in the management of people.
  • 6.5 Ask SHEFC to continue to provide support to the sector through management development programmes; to consider the implications of the Leadership Foundation proposed in the DfES White Paper and what relationship Scotland should have with that body; and to consider how Scotland can benefit further from programmes developed UK-wide, such as HESDA's Personal Development Programme for Leaders of Schools and Departments.
  • 6.6 Encourage HEIs to reduce as far as possible the use of short-term contracts and actively to manage that group of staff, taking account of the implications of the EC Fixed Term Workers Directive and the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.
  • 6.7 Continue to use our guidance to SHEFC to reinforce the need to embed good human resource management throughout the sector.
  • 6.8 Expect all institutions to recognise that good business systems, including good management information systems, are an essential element of good management.
  • 6.9 Expect all institutions to foster constructive relations with employee representatives, adopting best practice in dealing with trades unions.

Collaboration and maximising the effective use of resources: Institutions need to work well individually and collectively if they are to make best use of the resources - human and physical - available to them. This will sometimes include international-level collaboration.

We firmly believe that successful and effective collaboration is most likely to happen where institutions themselves are free to choose how and when to initiate and take forward issues or developments collaboratively. The role of the Executive and the Funding Council is to create an environment in which institutions feel confident and supported in examining options for closer working, to ensure that there is some scope for assisting financially with exploring and pursuing such initiatives, and to work with institutions to develop a strategic framework for the sector which can help structure institutional choices about which initiatives to pursue. Where the Funding Council sees opportunities for effective collaboration, or where exploration of the potential for collaboration may be being hindered by narrow institutional interests, then it should be prepared to play a role in helping to move the process forward.

Student Complaints

Scotland's higher education institutions, through their representative body Universities Scotland, have established a new system of independent review for student complaints. Once a student has exhausted all of the internal complaints procedures of their institutions they now have the right to take their complaint to an Independent Reviewer. To ensure independence, the Reviewer is selected by the Faculty of Advocates. The scheme is paid for by the institutions. The Universities Scotland scheme is the first of its kind in the UK, and only students at Scottish universities presently have an independent route of complaint. This is part of an ongoing drive by Scotland's institutions to embed openness and accountability.

There are already many examples of co-operation and collaboration at various levels, formally and informally, across and within sectors. We recognise that collaboration is not an end in itself and will only be sustainable where there are clear reasons to do so and benefits to be gained. It is important that HEIs look for opportunities for beneficial collaboration across all aspects of their business. For example, there are many areas - and they are growing in number - where institutions need to be able to draw on specialist expertise in order to meet legal obligations, or compete effectively in global markets, and where it does not make sense for every institution to set up its own mechanism or employ its own specialists to achieve this. Smaller institutions in particular need to be able to tap into resources elsewhere in the sector. International collaboration will need to continue to be an important feature of the sector also.

Using the existing physical infrastructure well presents a further challenge. Part of the solution will be a willingness to look again at traditional patterns of using space, and finding new ways to share facilities, not only across the education sector but with other organisations such as local authorities or businesses.

To progress this we will:

  • 6.10 Require SHEFC always to retain an element of funds for the purpose of supporting valuable proposals for collaboration which are driven by institutions themselves.
  • 6.11 Continue to consider positively proposals for mergers between institutions where these have come from a shared agreement and commitment to the benefit of such a move from the institutions themselves, are endorsed by SHEFC, are welcomed by the wider community and stakeholders and benefit the overall provision of higher education in Scotland.
  • 6.12 Ask SHEFC to explore with HEIs the potential for further opportunities for inter-institutional collaborations where there are strategic, financial or other benefits to be gained.
  • 6.13 Expect institutions to look for opportunities for collaboration which will achieve quality and best value across all aspects of their business.
  • 6.14 Explore with Universities Scotland how Scotland can derive even more value from international links.

Sharing Resources Internationally

Glasgow Caledonian University is taking part in a 1.5 million project as part of the wider Digital Library in the Classroom initiative. GCU has been tasked with the "spoken word" dimension in collaboration with BBC Archives and two US Universities, Michigan State and North West. Glasgow

Caledonian's share of the funding is 710,000 over the next three years. The Glasgow Caledonian Library already houses a unique collection of audio material in its Centre for Political Song.