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GDP Student Governor events

Our GDP Student Governor events will be taking place on 8 September 2021 and 26 January 2022.

26 January 2022 - Day two will allow new and returning student governors to reflect on their year to date, provide further skills development and network mapping as well as preparing them for their end of year handover.

For returning Student Governors there is a dedicated strand of activity and content with a chance to reflect on the experiences of the previous year with expert facilitation and advice to maximise your contribution in your second year.

26 January 2022 booking information


9.30am - Welcome – Aaron Porter, Associate Director (Governance), Advance HE

9.40am - What’s coming in 2022?
Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe

Following a period of intense “coping” - where governors have tended to step back to ensure that senior managers cope with Covid - governing bodies are now starting to look to the challenges of the future for universities. This session will act as an expert overview of the major issues on the agenda for the higher education sector, and consider the governing body’s role in addressing them.

10.20am - Break        

10.40am - How can we judge institutional performance?

June Hughes, University Secretary and Registrar, University of Derby
Amatey Doku, Consultant, Nous Group & Board Member, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Nehaal Bajwa, Diversity, Access and Participation Officer, Sussex SU

As well as setting the strategy and being responsible for “compliance”, governing bodies have a crucial role in setting objectives and judging the performance of the university and its senior managers. Student governors are often asked to input into these judgements - but how can students influence what is judged to start with? In this session four speakers will offer reflections on how this kind of framework can be effectively impacted upon student reps.

11.20am - Break        

11.30am - Reading the rules
Aaron Porter, Advance HE and Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe

Aaron has spent time in hundreds of governing body meetings - and while they all look similar, in truth every one of them has its own unspoken rules that are difficult to decode - and by the time student members do, it’s often too late to determine whether to try to change those rules or operate within them. In this confidential reflection exercise delegates will reflect on their own experiences and identify strategies for making the most of the learning in the second half of the year.

12.15pm – What do assertive governors say and do in the student interest? Sir Steve Smith, recently retired Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter

It has often been said that from a vice chancellor’s point of view, student representatives (particularly those in membership of the governing body) fall into one of three categories - they’re either loved, laughed at or respected (or even feared). In this session a former VC reflects on several years of interaction with SU officers to offer a unique perspective on the things that student governors do that make a real impact on university and leadership decision making.

1pm - Lunch break

1.45pm - Improving Board Diversity

Dave Thomas, Senior Adviser, Advance HE

You’ll barely find a university governing body that doesn’t have the diversity of its membership as something it needs to improve on its agenda and strengthening its regulatory oversight. But beyond a change in advertising strategy, what are the steps that work - and how can governing bodies change not just the faces but the thinking and culture that dominates? This session will introduce Advance HE’s Board Diversity Toolkit and offer advice on challenging behaviours and making progress even if you’re not the Chair.

2.30pm - Think (speak and act) like a governor
Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe
Jo Wells, Director, The Blagrave Trust

Almost every student governor we’ve ever met gets to January with a head full of ideas, feedback, concerns and reflections on both their university and how it operates - but frequently struggle to translate that material into meaningful contributions that will have an impact. In this final, interactive “Chatham House rule” session participants will be able to get advice on framing their ideas, feedback and concerns in a way that is influential but still authentic.

 3.20pm - Closing remarks and next steps
Aaron Porter, Advance HE

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Aaron Porter

Associate Director (Governance)
Advance HE
Aaron leads on Advance HE governance activity through the delivery of our national Governor Development Programme which engages with around 900 governors across the UK on an annual basis. He has extensive experience leading reviews of over 25 governing boards. Aaron was previously President of the National Union of Students (NUS) and also chair of trustees for the organisation.

Jim Dickinson

Associate Editor
Jim Dickinson
Jim Dickinson is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe where he takes a particular interest in students, governance and higher education regulation and leads on work with students’ unions.

Amatey Doku

Nous Group
Amatey Doku
Amatey is a consultant at Nous Group, an international consultancy with expertise in higher education. Prior to joining Nous, Amatey was Vice President Higher Education at the National Union of Students (NUS) leading on the organisation’s international engagement as well as work to tackle the BAME attainment gap.

Jo Wells

The Blagrave Trust
Jo Wells, black and white image
Jo joined Blagrave as Director in 2014. Jo has overall oversight over all funding partnerships and sets our strategic direction, ensuring we are true to our mission and living our values.

Dave Thomas

Senior Adviser
Advance HE
A Senior Adviser at Advance HE focussing on EDI and leadership. Dave is an Occupational Scientist and Public Health Specialist, with a remit in social justice. His doctoral research focuses on investigating the impact of Westernised ontologies, epistemologies, and pedagogy on racially minoritised students' interaction with teaching staff and interest.
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