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Good college governance consultation: analysis of responses

Analysis of responses to our good college governance consultation which ran from April to May 2017.


Section 3: Good Governance Task Group Recommendation 1: better arrangements are put in place to improve board member recruitment

Remuneration of assigned college chairs

Recommendation 1(b) of Task Group report

Scottish Ministers will consult on:

i) whether assigned college chairs should be remunerated.

Background

Regional college chairs are remunerated; however, the chairs of assigned colleges are not. This results in the chairs of some of Scotland's largest colleges not being remunerated. The time commitment required of all college chairs is significant. There are 20 incorporated colleges, of which 11 are regional colleges.

Legislation provides that the Scottish Ministers set the rate of remuneration of regional college chairs.

Question 1: Should the Scottish Ministers have powers to determine a rate of remuneration for the chairs of assigned, incorporated colleges?

3.1 31 respondents answered the closed aspect of this question. A majority of 28 respondents (90%) agreed that Scottish Ministers should have powers to determine a rate of remuneration for the chairs of assigned, incorporated colleges. Three respondents, all individuals, disagreed.

3.2 35 respondents provided commentary on the proposal and their views are summarised below.

Views in support of the proposal

3.3 Five reasons were provided in support:

  • Provides parity, consistency and transparency across the sector. (12 mentions)
  • Reflects the considerable time commitment and responsibilities of chairs of assigned, incorporated colleges. (7 mentions)
  • To attract suitably qualified and experienced people and to open up the post of chair to under-represented groups. (4 mentions)
  • To address the current anomaly whereby the chair of a small, regional college is remunerated whereas the chair of an assigned, larger college is not. (3 mentions)
  • To provide a clear line of accountability to Scottish Ministers and better control over the size of remuneration. (1 mention)

Concerns about the proposal

3.4 Opposition emerged largely from concerns over college finances. Individuals suggested that the decision on whether to remunerate chairs should be left to college boards, and based on their ability to pay. The representative body considered that remunerating chairs of assigned, incorporated bodies might lead to further inconsistencies, whereby chairs of non-incorporated colleges which sit within regional strategic body structures, may not be entitled to remuneration.

Other comments

3.5 There were mixed views on whether there should be different rates of remuneration based on size of college, and time commitment, or whether rates should be the same across all institutions.

3.6 Three respondents called for the Scottish Government to fund the additional remuneration, or provide more funding to colleges to cover this. One respondent recommended regular review of remuneration, a strong business case, and due diligence to be shown in rate of pay.

Trade union nominees on incorporated college boards

Recommendation 1(b) of Task Group report

Scottish Ministers will consult on:

ii) whether trade union nominees should join incorporated college boards and the future of elected staff members.

Background

Requiring two trade union nominees to join college boards would mean the minimum size of a board must increase. At present, a regional college board must have between 15 - 18 members and an incorporated assigned college board between 13 - 18 members. The provisions ensure that the chair and non-executives always form a majority of the members of the board. Simply adding two trade union nominees would breach this.

At present, there generally is parity in the number of staff members (two) and student members (two). Requiring two further staff members nominated by trade unions would remove this parity. One way to avoid increasing the size of the board would be to replace the elected staff members by trade union nominees who would be required to act in the best interests of the college, as opposed to any individual constituency which nominated or elected them.

Question 2: Should legislation require two trade union nominees from recognised main unions for (1) teaching, and (2) non-teaching staff to be members of a board of an incorporated college and regional board?

3.7 30 respondents answered the closed aspect of this question. A majority of 17 respondents (57%) did not agree that legislation should require two trade union nominees, for teaching and non-teaching staff respectively, to be members of such boards. Whereas most of the individuals who responded were in favour of the proposal, most of the organisations who provided a view were against. Table 3.1 shows views by respondent category.

Table 3.1 Views on whether legislation should require two trade union nominees for teaching and non-teaching staff to be members of boards

Category Yes No Total responding
Colleges 1 8 9
College Boards 0 4 4
Unions and Student Associations 3 0 3
Local Authorities 1 0 1
Non-Ministerial Government Departments 0 0 0
Representative Body 0 1 1
Other 1 0 1
Total Organisations 6 13 19
Total Individuals 7 4 11
Grand total 13 17 30

3.8 31 respondents provided commentary on the proposal and their views are summarised below.

Views in support of the proposal

3.9 Those providing explicit support for the proposal were individuals and unions and student associations. An overarching view was that trade unions had much to offer in terms of strengthening decision-making and ensuring transparency on boards. They were considered to be informed, and representative of the workforce, and would ensure that staff views are heard at board level. A few respondents commented that the forthcoming higher education model[3] could be usefully followed by colleges.

Concerns about the proposal

3.10 Four main arguments were made repeatedly.

  • Would create conflicts of interest due to trade unions existing primarily to represent their members' interests rather than the college interests. (The case of Laverie vs Scottish Ministers (2016) was referred to in which the Lord Clerk set out clearly the absolute principle of collective responsibility on all board members.) (18 mentions)
  • The status quo works well and there has not been a case made to change this. (8 mentions)
  • The priority is to give a voice to staff and they already have this through the current nomination and voting system. Union members can already put themselves forward in this process. (8 mentions)
  • The proposal would create an imbalance between executive and non-executive members on boards, and also staff and student representatives. (8 mentions)

3.11 A few other arguments were put forward by a small number of respondents:

  • Could disenfranchise non-trade union members. (4 mentions)
  • Boards could end up becoming too big, inefficient and cumbersome. (3 mentions)
  • Will have cost implications with more paid staff on the board. (2 mentions)
  • Complicated where there are multi trade unions, and exacerbated where regional boards have several colleges in their region. (2 mentions)
  • Could result in other special interest groups seeking representation on boards as of right. (1 mention)

Question 3: If so, should the nominees (1) be in addition to elected staff members (without any change to student member numbers); (2) be in addition to elected staff members (with an increase in student member numbers); or (3) replace elected staff members.

3.12 16 respondents answered the closed aspect of this question. A majority of 10 respondents (62%) considered that the nominees should be in addition to elected staff members, without any change to student member numbers. Table 3.2 overleaf shows views by respondent category.

Table 3.2 Views on whether nominees should be in addition to elected staff (no change to student numbers); in addition to elected staff (with increase to student numbers); or should replace elected staff members

Category In addition - no change to student member numbers In addition - with increase in student member numbers Replace elected staff members Total responding
Colleges 3 0 1 4
College Boards 0 0 1 1
Unions and Student Associations 2 0 1 3
Local Authorities 1 0 0 1
Non-Ministerial Government Departments 0 0 0 0
Representative Body 0 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0 0
Total Organisations 6 0 3 9
Total Individuals 4 3 0 7
Grand total 10 3 3 16

3.13 11 respondents provided commentary to support their view (many other respondents referred to their previous comments in relation to question 2).

3.14 Most of the commentary focused on what were perceived to be the benefits of option 1: namely trade union nominees, in addition to elected staff members, with no change to student member numbers. This was viewed as the fairest option, enabling staff views to be heard from a range of perspectives, including those at the front line of delivery, and inclusive of both union and non-union staff members.

3.15 A key disadvantage of option 1 and option 2 was identified as an increase in the size of the board. Option 3 was supported as avoiding increasing the numbers and make-up of the board. The view of one college was that there would not be any need for existing staff members, as trade union nominees would provide the voice of staff.

Ministers' powers to issue guidance on appointments

Recommendation 1(b) of Task Group report

Scottish Ministers will consult on:

iii) amending appointments guidance to make provision for highly regarded candidates for which there is no immediate position.

Background

It has been put to the Scottish Government that guidance should be more flexible by recognising that an open recruitment process may identify otherwise suitable candidates for which there is no immediate position, and that there should be a mechanism by which they can join a board without necessarily going through a further open recruitment process for non-executive board members. The consultation paper outlined proposals for additions to the Ministerial guidance to facilitate this.

Question 4: Should provision be made for highly regarded candidates for which there is no immediate position to be appointed without further open recruitment, along the lines proposed?

3.16 32 respondents answered the closed aspect of this question. A majority of 27 respondents (84%) considered that provision should be made for highly regarded candidates, for which there is no immediate position to be appointed without further open recruitment. Seven respondents disagreed, five of them individuals, one college and one respondent from the "other" category.

3.17 33 respondents provided commentary on the proposal and their views are summarised below.

Views in support of the proposal

3.18 The most commonly identified benefit (8 specific mentions) was that avoiding a further recruitment process when suitable candidates have already been identified, will save time and money for both recruiters and candidates.

3.19 Other benefits of the proposal were identified:

  • Has the potential to widen access to under-represented groups on boards; could form part of positive action to balance board membership; could provide would-be board members with the opportunity to become involved in associated positions, such as membership of board committees, prior to stepping up to full board membership. (5 mentions)
  • Fits with current informal recruitment processes; will formalise efficient operations. (4 mentions)
  • Provides flexibility in recruitment. (4 mentions)
  • Less likely to "lose" talented people. (2 mentions)

Concerns about the proposal

3.20 Three key reasons were provided to oppose the proposal. Four respondents, including three individuals, expressed concern that the proposal could be viewed as lacking transparency, could be open to misuse, and amounted to a "jobs for the boys" approach.

3.21 Three respondents across different sectors considered that the phrase "highly regarded" was too subjective to be part of a rigorous selection procedure.

3.22 One individual and a respondent from the "other" category suggested that other highly suitable candidates may emerge during the proposed 12 months holding time, and could be denied an opportunity to apply for board membership.

3.23 One individual commented that the proposed practice is not the norm in other sectors, and therefore should not be adopted.

Other comments

3.24 Several respondents suggested that should the proposal be put into practice, a framework of checks and balances should also be put in place including:

  • "Highly regarded" should be clearly defined.
  • The period of time during which such candidates are considered for postings should be clearly defined.
  • The impact on diversity of selection should be closely monitored.
  • The practice should operate only in exceptional circumstances, which are fully explained.
  • Highly suitable candidates need not necessarily be offered a permanent position on the board - this could be temporary, or they could utilised in an associated role, such as providing expertise on a board committee.

3.25 The 12 month period suggested in the consultation was welcomed specifically by five respondents. Two respondents called for this to be shortened to 6 months; one requested a period longer than 12 months.

Recruitment of board members with demonstrable ability to work well as a team

Recommendation 1(b) of Task Group report

Scottish Ministers will consult on:

iii) amending appointments guidance to make provision….to encourage the recruitment of board members with demonstrable ability to work well as a team.

Question 5: Should provision be made in relation to a proven ability to work well as a team?

3.26 29 respondents answered the closed aspect of this question. A majority of 21 respondents (72%) considered that provision should be made in relation to proven ability to work well as a team. Eight respondents disagreed, six individuals and two colleges.

3.27 33 respondents provided commentary on the proposal and their views are summarised below.

3.28 Several of the colleges and college boards reported that consideration of ability to work well in a team is already part of their selection processes. Many respondents acknowledged what they perceived to be the benefits of team working at board level. Two respondents suggested that it may be difficult to demonstrate objectively the ability to work well in a team.

3.29 One concern which emerged in responses of those both for and against the proposal, was that of stifling independent thinking by recruiting only "group thinkers". Several respondents supported including people who would challenge others on the board, and cautioned against recruiting only those who "are like" the other board members. One respondent from the "Other" category suggested adding to the guidance, "ability to work within a diverse team" in order to send out the message that diversity is valued, in addition to team work.

3.30 The other key reasons for opposing the proposal were:

  • This is too prescriptive and recruitment should be left to the appointments panel. (5 mentions)
  • Team working is just one of the criteria for selection and should not be singled out over others. (3 mentions)
  • Team working should be a "given" and does not need guidance to emphasise it. (2 mentions)

Advertising

Recommendation 1(a) (ii) of Task Group report

Appointment bodies should advertise all board vacancies on CDN[4] website (this may encourage more from college sector to consider applying).

Question 6: Should appointing bodies advertise all board vacancies on CDN website?

3.31 31 respondents answered the closed aspect of this question. A majority of 24 respondents (77%) considered that appointment bodies should advertise all board vacancies on the CDN website. Seven respondents disagreed, four individuals and three colleges.

3.32 29 respondents provided commentary on the proposal and their views are summarised below.

3.33 The benefits of advertising on the CDN website were highlighted by a few respondents as ensuring transparency and encouraging applicants from the college sector. Two colleges commented that this was already their standard practice.

3.34 Ten respondents from across a range of sectors gave their support for advertising on the CDN website, but emphasised that this should not be at the exclusion of other places where vacancies could be advertised, particularly if under-represented groups are to be targeted. A few of the respondents who did not answer the closed part of the question, commented that recruitment should follow good practice in terms of fairness, transparency and equality.

3.35 The timeframe of two weeks, suggested by the Task Group, between date of advertising and closing date for applications, was welcomed by four respondents. However, two of these (both colleges) commented that this should not be prescribed, as on occasions such operational issues are out of their hands.

3.36 The main reason given by the colleges and individuals opposing the proposal was that there should not be prescription to this level of operational detail. They emphasised that boards would use the most effective routes to advertising available to them, which may include two weeks of publicity on the CDN website, but this should not be set in stone.

3.37 One college argued that, for consistency, appointments should be through the Public Appointment Scotland website. They considered that websites such as the CDN website could then highlight these opportunities, but should not be involved in the appointment application process.

Contact

Email: College Policy Team ScotGov_Colleges_Mailbox@gov.scot

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