Delegates with a range of governance responsibilities including, Chairs, governance professionals, students and lay governors, along with other senior leaders, attended Advance HE annual governance conference in London today (23 November).
Keynote speakers included Julia Gillard, Chair of Wellcome, and former prime minister of Australia, who spoke about governance principles of transparency, humility, networking and engagement. She drew on her experiences in Australian politics and in her current role with Wellcome.
Talking about ‘hope’ in a troubled world, she reminded delegates of the contribution of higher education and why their role as governors is so vital: “I think we can still find it [hope] in the very institutions that you in this room represent and to which you devote your hard work, thoughtfulness, and creativity.
“Each of you is connected to a place where the future is being made, where lives are being expanded, with the leaders, innovators, creators, carers, peers, activists, builders, and the list goes on, are being educated with new ideas with the capacity to transform human society, in ways big and small…”
In her keynote, Jane Hamilton, Chair of the Committee of University Chairs, challenged delegates to think about the culture of their Boards, constructive challenge and the data available to them to enable effective dialogue. Similarly, Susan Lapworth, CEO – Office for Students, in her address, discussed the Board’s role to protect the student interest through effective management of risk in the areas of quality, financial sustainability and public funding.
Beyond the keynotes, delegates engaged in panel discussions and workshops focussed on the conference themes of policy, politics and people.
Dr Colette Fletcher, Advance HE Head of Consultancy and Governance said, “It’s such a privilege to bring together an audience like this for our annual governance conference. It is unique in that it’s the only conference solely related to higher education governance. It’s also one of those rare opportunities to get the great range of people involved in governance – Chairs, governance professionals, lay governors, and, increasingly, students – to get together to discuss the key issues and challenges in governance today.”
Herriot Watt University Student Governor, Connel Greenhorn, said, “It’s been fantastic to network with so many people and to hear from so many keynotes about what’s happening at sector level and I will be taking that back to the student that I represent.”
Pat Younge, Chair of Cardiff University Board, said, “Sessions like today are really important because you get to hear what’s happening elsewhere in the sector – we’re a wide and diverse sector, so anybody who thinks they have got the ‘best’ solution is probably mistaken...I have really learned a lot in the sessions we’ve heard this morning.”
A detailed report of the event will follow.