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Student governors: ensuring the student interest is 'front and centre'…

13 Jul 2021 | Jim Dickinson Looking ahead to the next academic year, Jim Dickinson, Associate Editor, Wonkhe, highlights the key challenges facing governing bodies, focusing on the student governor perspective.

Jim Dickinson will be leading a session at Advance HE’s event for Student Governors, 8 September: "Rubber stamp or lethal weapon: Can Student Governors lead institutional change in a time of Covid-19?", part of our Governor Development Programme (GDP).

We asked Jim to highlight some key issues, particularly thinking about the student governor perspective:

1. What does good performance look like? In a year when most of the usual metrics that are used to judge a university senior team’s performance will have been impacted by Covid-19, it’s crucial that governing bodies consider carefully what “success” means in a post-pandemic context. The student perspective on that question will be incredibly important, and we’ll consider some of the debates and options from a student point of view at the event.

2. It’s all about the money. This year the government will finally get around to responding to the Post-18 review of Fees and Funding, with potentially huge implications for university finances. Universities in Wales won’t escape the debate either. Student members of governing bodies will be worried about the potential impacts of changes on both universities and students – a potential conflict of interest that we’ll explore at the event.

3. Value. Universities everywhere are thinking through government nudges on so-called “low value” courses and considering carefully the portfolio of provision they offer. Changes like that can have dramatic impacts on students – we’ll explore what that could look like at the event and how to ensure the student perspective and the student interest is front and centre in discussions.

4. Public accountability. Student membership of governing bodies is a type of public accountability – and as universities consider their wider responsibilities to the public, the community and the climate, student governors can play an important role in framing those discussions and widening out the interests considered by the board/council. We’ll consider some of those issues as part of the programme.

5. Diversity. Every university is wondering how to make its governing body more diverse - but many rely on student members to make up the numbers on age, ethnicity and gender. We’ll look in detail at some of the EDI issues in governance on the programme so student members can contribute to the discussions positively and proactively.

6. Issues. This will be a year where the pressure on universities to act on big student issues grows – on everything from student mental health, to sexual and racial misconduct, to freedom of speech. We’ll look at some of the issues from a governance perspective and ensure participants are able to influence the discussions at board level in the student interest.

Find out more about our Governor Development Programme (GDP) and the Student Governor event, 8 September 2021.

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