Effective governance in English universities: A case study of pre- and post-1992 institutions

Richard Bogue, Stuart MacLennan

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There is a marked difference in the governance structures of pre- and post-1992 universities in England. Notably, greater academic representation and involvement is evident in pre-1992 universities. By contrast, post-1992 universities more closely adhere to the ‘business model’ of governance endorsed by government commissioned reviews of university governance, with greater lay membership of governing bodies, and an extensive executive team, led by the vice-chancellor. It is submitted that the business model is unsuitable for ensuring effective governance, fails to reflect the core educational function of universities, and marginalises academic input into governance processes. This article aims to critically analyse the legal constitutional framework, and the regulatory framework, within which universities in England operate, and the implications for governance. Specific reference is made to the constitutions of pre-1992 universities and post-1992 universities. This article further considers the regulatory framework under the Office for Students (OfS), including the extensive the powers available to the OfS to intervene in universities, and their approach in exercising those powers. Problems in the regulatory framework’s reliance on self-reporting by universities are examined, in particular, as well as the Code of Governance for Higher Education. This article concludes that the current legal and governance framework is not conducive to effective governance, and makes a number of recommendations for reform.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-46
Number of pages42
JournalEuropean Journal of Legal Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2021

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  • higher education governance
  • corporate governance
  • universities


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