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The role and function of chairs of university boards and councils

Bott, Richard Adrian (2007) The role and function of chairs of university boards and councils. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This qualitative research explores the role and function of chairs of university boards of governors and councils - their governing and ultimate decision-making bodies. It utilises in-depth studies of a small number of English universities, using as primary sources the chairs and other corporate leadership figures. Through interviews, supported by secondary source material from the universities, it reveals the interior workings of decision-making in higher education corporate governance, and the key role of these chairs. The research shows chairs as significant leadership figures in their universities, independent of management, and with distinctive domains of their own, the boundaries of which are contestable, particularly at the interface with the management domain. Their authority is considerable, yet contingent, derived from multiple sources, and reified though leadership of the lay majority of the governing body. The chair's role is shown not to be determined by the university's mission, though chairs demonstrate a level of `super-commitment' to their university, its values and academic work. Chairs determine how much time they will spend in their university, and it is considerable, engaging with extended, often informal, networks of contacts as well as in formal duties. Drawn from senior figures in employment, they look to their working experience to guide their conduct as chairs. The chairs are proactive in undertaking their work, appointing vice-chancellors, engaging in the determination of institutional strategy and monitoring its implementation. The chair/vice-chancellor dyad is confirmed as a significant, mutually beneficial working relationship: chairs in this study provide support, mentorship and advice, but also require accountability, as the de facto `managers' of their vicechancellors. The research shows that chairs may draw considerable authority from this association, in terms of engagement in, and information about, the university and its core academic business. Governance/management domain boundaries in the case study institutions were not as clearly differentiated as is often assumed in the governance literature, but are shown to be blurred, ambiguous, shifting and evolving.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Education (Leeds)
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2010 10:49
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 10:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/767

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