Most institutions have issues to address such as widening participation of students from different groups; ensuring fair degree outcomes; addressing pay gaps; supporting pipelines of diverse teaching and research talent; or connecting with and serving their wider communities. Boards need to be equipped with the range of perspectives and skills to navigate and challenge on these issues.
We are leading work in UK HE on enhancing EDI perspectives within institutional governance, in terms of both board diversity and board assurance, including partnering with other sector groups such as the global 30% Club for gender diversity and the global search firm Perrett Laver. We draw on insight from developing and running the internationally recognised Charters accreditation schemes in race equality and gender equality for universities.
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Supporting a step-change in Board diversity
The second report into the diversity of HE governors in the UK published by Advance HE reveals insights from our analysis of HESA data looking at the diversity characteristics of governors in UK higher education.
Findings from the Advance HE analysis of this data revealed that:
- The proportion of women on governing bodies increased by just 0.2% to 42.4%, a slowing of the positive trend recorded over the past decade.
- 12.2% of governors were from racially minoritised ethnic groups, very similar to the proportion within UK HE academic staff (12.1%).
- Over half (54.0%) of governors were aged 56 or over, with this being the least diverse age group, though still contributing significantly to the diversity of the governor population as a whole.
The report puts a spotlight on the current diversity of boards, and provides the data to bring to light areas of underrepresentation. This is an important milestone for the sector to understand the data behind board diversity, in order to put in place measures and develop a culture to increase board diversity.
Helping Boards to build confidence in their assurance of EDI matters
We often find that board members individually and collectively lack the understanding and confidence to challenge on and assure progress on EDI matters relating to staff and students at their institution. That is a significant issue for the sector if we are to address the systemic barriers that we know exist for different groups in society.
We offer bespoke sessions to develop Boards in this regard. We can provide your governors with a workshop and guidance tailored to your institution’s context. We can provide an introduction across all protected characteristics, an overview of practices in the sector and some tailored steps for your institutions to take, working with you in a safe yet developmental way
Supporting effective processes and strategies for board diversity and inclusion
As the data shows, diversity on boards in the UK sector is lacking. We provide bespoke reviews and support towards effective board recruitment and succession plans, working with secretaries and nominations committees.
Board Diversity Toolkit
Board Diversity Toolkit launched in November 2021 as an output of the Board Diversity Practice Project, run by the University of Gloucestershire, in collaboration with the international executive search firm Perrett Laver as part of Advance HE's 2020-21 Collaborative Development Fund.
The Toolkit is designed to help member institutions to improve the diversity and inclusivity of their governing bodies, whether as a Secretary, Chair of Governors, Governance and Nominations Committee member, or anyone interested in tackling under-representation and aiming for inclusion at the Board level in the higher education sector.
Advance HE members can access the Toolkit and accompanying resources here.
Board diversity framework
Following the publication of the Leadership Foundation report ‘Increasing the diversity of senior leaders in higher education: the role of executive search firms’ authored by Professor Simonetta Manfredi in March 2017, we have published a diversity principles framework to support greater diversity in board appointments.
Board Recruitment Framework
In line with the diversity principles framework, Advance HE has launched a board recruitment framework as part of the project. This includes guidelines for preparing job descriptions, person specifications and advert texts for board roles which are inclusive.
Board Recruitment and Diversity in Higher Education
Diverse and inclusive boards support institutional success, with the confidence to assure equality, diversity and inclusion matters. Our guidance webpage collates resources and publications to support your board and governors.
The role of Governance in Equality in Higher Education
Governance should influence - and drive progress in – equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for students and staff, and wider society. Our guidance webpage collates resources and publications to support your board and governors.
Who we've worked with
Keep up to date with Advance HE
Monthly Governance Bulletin
Every month we send out a newsletter that collates the latest news from the month and our most recent resources, including blogs and Advance HE reports. The newsletter also highlights upcoming dates for key events and programmes within the Advance HE portfolio.
Governance News Alerts
Our News Alerts provide regular updates from across the sector on the latest policy changes or introductions, updated guidance and news. We provide an at-a-glance view of the piece along with the implications for boards and governors.
Resources and guidance
Advance HE is committed to producing and sharing news, guidance, research, publications, resources and toolkits to support good governance. Take a look at our Governance guidance pages where these are collated.