The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) has released a draft of its proposed revisions to the Higher Education Code of Governance. Interested parties have until mid-March 2020 to offer their views on the draft by completing and returning to CUC a consultation questionnaire.
Typically, CUC reviews the Code every four years to ensure it remains up-to-date and fit for purpose. The previous version of the Code was released in December 2014, with minor revisions being incorporated in June 2018.
The primary audience of the Code is the governing bodies of higher education providers.
Responses to the draft Code
CUC is inviting interested parties to review and consider the draft Code. Interested parties have the opportunity to complete and return a consultation questionnaire on the draft Code to CUC by 12.00 on Friday, 13 March 2020.
It is anticipated that a final version of the Code will be released once the responses to the draft Code have been reviewed and final amendments agreed.
The draft Code
The authors of the Code are mindful that arrangements for governance need to be proportionate and capable of being applied to any provider irrespective of size, complexity or legal form.
The Code continues to be based on the principle of “apply or explain” but CUC suggest that compared to the current version of the Code, “there is a changing focus from the processes associated with good governance to the behaviours and relationships required to ensure their effectiveness in practice.”
A more concise Code
While many elements found in the previous edition of the Code are retained (eg. the revised edition continues to be organised around the primary elements of higher education governance), the new draft is more concise. This follows feedback on the current edition of the Code, which suggested there was a “tendency to conflate principles, mandatory requirements and optional practice.”
By developing an associated publication, the governance handbook, CUC intends to provide “more detailed guidance and illustrative practice” to users of the Code. The aim of the handbook is to act as a reference tool, and to “include templates and questions for institutions to consider when implementing the various elements of the Code”.
Alongside the draft Code, an outline of the Governance Handbook has been published by CUC. The outline includes indicative content, and the nature of the material which might be included in the handbook, using the example of “fit and proper” persons.
The approach adopted
The approach adopted by CUC broadly mirrors the one used by the Financial Reporting Council when it developed the most recent version of the UK Corporate Governance Code (see, for example, Guidance on Board Effectiveness).
Governors will wish to consider carefully the draft Code, and if finalised in its current form, how it might affect the governance of the provider with whom they are associated. In turn, governing bodies will need to consider their collective view of the draft Code and how they may wish to respond to the consultation questionnaire.
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