Diversity of membership on boards and governance bodies in a range of sectors have been shown to be a key element in successful boards and effectively lead, monitor and advise their executive. Much progress has been made on improving gender balance on boards, including in universities and higher education institutions (HEI). However, the (scant) literature on HEI boards highlights that higher education or university boards in the UK need to do more to tackle all the other forms of under-representation where limited progress has been made on diversity, other than gender. This paper thus has two main aims, the first to locate the work on developing the diversity of UK university boards within the wider (corporate) theory and literature in this field. This is because the literature in the corporate sector is better established and therefore there is something to learn from practice in this area. The second aim is to develop a practical toolkit to expedite board diversity in higher education to bring it in line with other sectors to enable them to reflect what the OECD believe should be the role of universities: which is to be at the cutting edge of leading societal change.
This paper reports on quantitative and qualitative data collected and analysed in order to develop a practical Board Diversity Toolkit - the first national scheme of its kind. Data were collected from 44 HEIs, representing a third of the UK’s HEIs and 104 governors to inform the development of the Toolkit. The paper discusses the issues raised in the data that might be a key barrier to achieving diversity and addressing chronic under-representation in UK Boards. This centred around deep-seated attitudes on how diversity may compromise the skills needed on Boards and importantly how to unseat these ingrained (often unconscious) attitudes if we are to achieve genuine change at Board levels. The Board Diversity Toolkit, designed as an output of work, could play a key role in changing such attitudes and develop the UK HEI sector in terms of conducting board business better, as well as meeting the need to be representative of staff and student bodies.
|Other Fields of Education
|July 5, 2023
|Published in Issue
|Year 2023 Volume: 4 Issue: 1