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Women in HE Conference 2021

Board Recruitment and Diversity in Higher Education

Diverse and inclusive boards support institutional success, with the confidence to assure equality, diversity and inclusion matters.

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.

Victoria Holbrook

As HE moves into its post-pandemic reality, ensuring your Board has diverse people and perspectives is even more critical to delivering a sustainable strategy with the trust and confidence of stakeholders

Victoria Holbrock
Assistant Director - Governance
Advance HE

Want to know more about Board Recruitment and Diversity?

The information pack for Board Recruitment and Diversity contains links to all the resources and content available on this page plus more.

Request a pack
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Diversity of governors in higher education

The first ever 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:

  • Just 41.9% of governing board members were women, compared to 54.6% of staff members overall.
  • Around nine in ten governors were white (89.2%), 5.3% were Asian and 2.6% were Black.
  • 5.4% HE governors were disabled, and a long-standing illness or health condition was the most commonly reported impairment among disabled governing board members.

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.

Download the report

Services for Governing Bodies

We can provide tailored services to universities, private providers or further education colleges offering HE to ensure that Governors and governance professionals have the resources they need to promote good governance in their institutions.

Find out more

Reflecting on the 'Diversity of governors in higher education' report

Simonetta Manfredi, Professor in Equality and Diversity Management and Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, Oxford Brookes University, reflects on the findings of the 'Diversity of governors in higher education report'.

Watch the video
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Board diversity practice project

This project aims to collate, understand and share members’ practice to deliver on board diversity via the sharing of practice and lessons learned from members’ attempts to diversify their boards. This will provide an evidence base for members, potential solutions through an easily-accessible bank of case-studies, and identification of priorities for areas still to address.

The Board Diversity Practice Project is running in collaboration with the international executive search firm Perrett Laver, whose involvement has enabled us to widen the scope of the research and maximise its benefit to Advance HE members and the sector.

Find out more
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Board Recruitment and Diversity reports, publications and resources

The following resources have been designed to support the Higher Education Institution's (HEI) understand and development of board recruitment and diversity.

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. 

Download the framework.

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. 

Download the framework.

Reflecting on the 'Diversity of governors in higher education' report

Simonetta Manfredi, Professor in Equality and Diversity Management and Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, Oxford Brookes University, reflects on the findings of the 'Diversity of governors in higher education report'.

Watch the video.

More resources, reports and publications

You will find links to more resources, reports and publications in our information pack on board recruitment and diversity in higher education.

Request a pack
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Board Vacancies Portal

In order for the higher education sector to attract more diverse candidates to sit on governing boards there needs to be an increase in the accessibility and transparency of vacancies. Advance HE and Committee of University Chairs (CUC), in collaboration with Association of Heads of University Administration and the 30% club, are pleased to announce the launch of a central repository for board vacancies in higher education via CUC’s website. The portal will provide aspiring board members with a central online repository of board level vacancies in the higher education sector.

Visit the portal
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30% Club

The 30% Club supports diversity in its very broadest sense. The club believes that only those organisations that foster truly inclusive cultures - cultures that embrace women who look, act and, importantly, THINK differently - can reach their full potential to positively impact their people, their markets and their communities.

Advance HE supports the 30% Club’s HE Working Group on gender diversity. University membership of the 30% Club is free and should be registered by the Vice Chancellor or equivalent.

Find out more
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Board Apprentice

Board Apprentice seeks to place appropriate individuals as board apprentices on boards for 1 year to gain first hand experience, through observation, of the workings and dynamics on boards. They have been used successfully by a range of institutions to diversify the skills and characteristics of the governing body.

Find out more
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