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Funding for new HE board diversity practice project

17 Nov 2020 | Victoria Holbrook Victoria Holbrook, Assistant Director Governance at Advance HE, introduces the HE Board Diversity Practice Project supported by Perrett Laver as part of our new Collaborative Development Fund.

Advance HE is delighted to be working with Perrett Laver to fund a major international research project looking at our members’ practice to diversify higher education governing bodies.

For the first time, this project will establish an evidence base of what is being done to ensure that boards are truly diverse, drawing on the full range of talent that exists in our societies. It will collate and analyse practice as well as identifying lessons learned, persistent challenges and next steps for the sector. Perrett Laver’s involvement in the project has enabled us to extend the scope and reach of the research, delivering maximum benefit for members.

We know that effectively delivering progress on diversity and inclusion for students, staff and society as a whole are ongoing challenges for higher education institutions. There are persistent issues such as addressing the student degree awarding gap, the pipeline of diverse research and leadership talent, the gender pay gap and ensuring safe and respectful working environments for all. Key to successfully navigating these issues is having a governing body which can draw on a range of lived experiences and perspectives in its work, has a culture which fosters challenge and honest dialogue and avoids ‘group think’. Advance HE recently hosted a roundtable for member Chairs and governors exploring the board’s role in assuring progress in EDI. You can watch a recording and read a summary of the event here.

We know from our recent report Diversity of governors in higher education that progress has been made in the UK in recent years to address the gender balance on boards. However, the same cannot be said of other protected characteristics such as race and disability. Advance HE and Perrett Laver are both committed to addressing this issue and supporting higher education institutions around the world by exploring the practice that works, as well as what else needs to be done to ensure board diversity that serves students, the sector and society well.

Kate Hunter, Partner & Co-Head, Higher Education Practice (EMEA) at Perrett Laver, said, “We are very much looking forward to collaborating with Advance HE on this timely project. We know that there is a strong desire across the HE sector to improve the lack of diversity at all levels with specific challenges relating to university governing bodies. This project will help us all better understand the systemic barriers to creating truly diverse and inclusive boards, and help us share best practice in how to resolve these.”

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