Wellcome and Advance HE are entering the second year of piloting a fully-funded development programme targeted at those in research that belong to groups currently underrepresented on higher education (HE) and research boards and governing bodies.
Analysis of the diversity of UK university and research institute governing body membership, as well as data on governance from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, indicates that there is an underrepresentation of certain minoritised groups, compared with the sector and society at large.
Wellcome has put diversity, equity and inclusion at the heart of its new strategy and will work with the research sector on change. With increased gender, ethnicity and disability representation on UK HE and research boards, the diversity amongst key decision makers will be improved. Such changes in leadership will be essential to help build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest.
The programme aims to support participants to explore the membership of committees and boards of research institutions, universities, and other organisations relevant to the sector, such as charities, hospitals, funders and research organisations.
Following a successful first year of the programme, there will be a further ten places available this year, to begin the year-long scheme at the end of September 2022.
The programme is open to researchers and professional research services staff from underrepresented groups in UK universities and research institutes – namely women, trans people, people from ethnic minority groups and disabled people (including those with long term health conditions).
An introduction to the programme from the Chair of Wellcome, Julia Gillard
We spoke with the Chair of Wellcome and Former Prime Minister of Australia about her experiences.
‘Success on the board’ is a comprehensive development programme running over 12 months. The programme aims to equip participants with skills and guidance on how to access opportunities. The programme includes:
- online training
- opportunities to shadow boards
- reflective learning
- online webinars
- an online community across a year-long programme.
- an in-person concluding event
Participants are required to commit to a total of three full days of scheduled activity and to commit to an additional four days in total over the course of the year to engage fully in the suite of activities and the community.
To ensure participants can get the most out of the programme, each applicant will need to find an institutional champion who will submit a supporting application. We will not be able to accept applications without the necessary institutional support. Advance HE can provide support to help applicants find an institutional champion – More information on this can be found on the frequently asked questions page.
Dr Shewly Choudhury discusses her experiences of joining a board
We spoke with Dr Shewly Choudhury, Trustee at the MS Society, to discuss her experiences of joining a board, and her top tips for those thinking about applying for the programme.
Information for individuals
Joining a committee or board can be a hugely enriching experience. It can provide you with the opportunity to shape organisations and causes you care about, develop existing skills, and learn new ones. Researchers and professional services staff bring highly sought skills and expertise which can strengthen the decision-making capacity of a board. More effective oversight and decision making is best achieved when there is a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and skills around the table. For boards and committees to thrive, organisations need your talent, expertise and viewpoints.
As part of the application process, applicants will be asked to consider what relevant transferable experience they have and what they hope to get out of the programme.
Information for institutional champions
Developing diverse talent is important, and it is recognised that sustainable change in behaviour and practice requires increased inclusion at a structural level, particularly in governance structures.
For individuals to be successful we need to remove barriers previously hindering progress which cannot be done by a development programme in isolation. Advance HE and Wellcome are therefore requiring each participant is supported by an institutional champion.
Institutional champions will need to provide successful applicants with:
- the time to attend and fully participate in the programme
- the opportunity to shadow a board at their institution
- a mentor (from within the institution) who can support their development
As part of the application process, institutional champions will also be required to answer a question on how they are going to make an active commitment to improve board diversity and inclusion at their institution. Both the institutional champion and mentor will need to commit to meeting with Advance HE at least twice to set intentions and discuss progress.
Advance HE will be able to support applicants in finding someone in their institution who could act as the institutional champion. More information on this can be found on the frequently asked questions page (question 10).
How will places be allocated?
There will be two stages to the assessment process. Firstly, applications will be assessed against an eligibility threshold. If an application is eligible, it will then move to the second stage and be put into a lottery draw (randomised selection) for places. More information on the eligibility threshold and selection process can be found on the frequently asked questions page.
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