Attributes of a Governor

Key variables that shape the recruitment and development of governors for boards and committees have been confirmed through current research . A diverse range of board members outlined priorities. In addition, some universities and higher education colleges require specialist skills or attributes. This list is therefore indicative rather than exhaustive.

The self-diagnosis tool comprises a range of questions to review and complete to help you self assess your progress.

Essential / Desirable

Each board member brings a unique pre-existing skills mix. From discussion with your university against this framework, you may identify next steps for your development.

Essential skills could include:

  • strategic awareness - to understand the wider picture
  • sound business acumen - including the particular context in which your university operates

Desirable skills might comprise:

  • previous board / senior level experience - appreciating how university boards work for maximum effectiveness
  • understanding of the difference between executive and governor roles - focussing on strategic issues and avoiding being drawn into operational matters

Knowledge / Behavioural

This area will help to indentify and draw out those hard and soft skills that members bring to their boards.

Knowledge can cover many areas:

  • financial insight - perhaps with an awareness of fundraising or estates development
  • function-specific or sector specific expertise - for example, proficiency in human resources or schools / further education

Behavioural attributes will cover those softer skills:

  • a team player - putting the board first and not acting for individual constituencies
  • a good listener and communicator - helping to optimise decisions

Immediate / Long-term

The focus must be on those developmental areas which are of immediate help but them progress towards a longer-term development programme.

Immediate goals - to be an effective board member as soon as possible by:

  • understanding the relationship between government and higher education
  • familiarisation with other board members; senior management team; Students Union and key constituencies within the university

Long-term goals - to take on further responsibility by:

  • becoming a mentor or 'buddy' for new board members
  • developing a competence and confidence to become a committee chair or chair of the board

Local / Sector Agenda

This emphasises the specific knowledge that will help your university to ensure that strategic goals can be achieved, with the following examples below:

Local agenda:

  • specific knowledge required, for example, from the Health Sector, Arts bodies, Science or other subject-specific funding agencies
  • local connections to help with employability agenda, estates matters, partnerships and/or fund raising

Sector agenda:

  • learning much more about the policy environment and financial / regulatory arrangements that affect higher education
  • attending external events organised, for example, through the Leadership Foundation or CUC