This dialogue focuses on how the University went about appointing a new vice-chancellor, but also offers a number of observations about higher education governance. The process of appointing a new head of institution involved the establishment of an appointing committee (with equal representation from the council and senate), and extensive consultation with the whole of the university. As Towie acknowledges ‘it was a very extended process.’ Readers with a particular interest in how to appoint a vice-chancellor may also wish to refer to Governor dialogue No.2, which outlines the process used by the University of Bristol.
With a commercial background, but also with extensive experience of chairing the board of a large charity, Towie offers a number of interesting comments on university governance. Towie suggests ‘it is as if the historic governance of a university via its senate has had superimposed on it a superstructure of charity governance....’, whose purpose is to protect public money and act as an overseer. There is a risk that excessive attention is given to governance, meaning the real purpose of a university is forgotten.
In her closing comments, Towie raises the question of a council needing to have members who are ‘external experts on higher education’. She sees a contrast between members of commercial board having connected knowledge with the company’s industry and the absence of such individuals on many university boards.