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GDP Role and Responsibilities of Staff Governors (Online)

County / Region
United Kingdom
Position on the Pathway
Governor's Pathway
Fellowship Category
Event Type
Virtual Networking Event
Start Date
End Date
4.5 hours
Institution Type
Higher Education and Further Education
Price From


For new and continuing Staff Governors and those considering whether they would like to become a Staff Governor.

This one-day event, which forms part of our Governor Development Programme (GDP),  will consider the role of Staff Governors and how they can best make an effective contribution to the work of the governing body. Staff Governors provide a direct link between the staff of the institution and the governing body, yet a balance must be struck as they are not acting as a representative of the constituency from whom they have been elected or appointed. As Governors, they should act in the best interests of the institution and accept collective responsibility for the decisions agreed by the governing body. Independent Governors may also look to Staff Governors as a source of information to help their understanding of the institution, and to gain insights into how it operates.

The event will look at the importance of building good relationships with other members of the governing body, explore how difficult issues can be raised, and the balance between supporting and challenging the executive.

Governors Pathway

Role and Responsibilities of Staff Governors Programme

10.00am   Welcome and introductions,  Aaron Porter, Associate Director (Governance), Advance HE

10.15am  Understanding the HE policy landscape, Ross Renton, Pro Vice Chancellor, Worcester University

11.00am  Understanding HE governance, Catherine Baxter, University Secretary, Harper Adams University

11.45am  Break

12 noon Composition of governing bodies with headlines and insights from Advance HE Diversity of UK HE Governing Bodies Report, Aaron Porter, Associate Director (Governance), Advance HE

12.15pm  Staff governor panel, Sarah Cowls, Head of Student Services and staff governor, Queen Mary University of London, Dominic Laffy, staff governor, Regent's University London

1pm  Lunch

1.30pm  Breakout discussions

2.10pm  Feedback from discussions

2.30pm  Close


Catherine Baxter
University Secretary, Harper Adams University

Catherine was appointed to the role of University Secretary at Harper Adams University in September 2009 having previously worked in senior roles at both pre and post 1992 Universities in England and Wales.  She also has experience of setting up an overseas campus.  

Catherine’s role at Harper Adams includes being Secretary to the Board of Governors and its committees and Secretary to the HAU Development Trust (a separate charity established to raise scholarship and capital funds).  She also manages a range of teams including Estates & Facilities, HR, Legal, Data Protection/FOI; Catering, and Health and Safety.

Catherine Baxter University Secretary Harper Adams University
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Dominic Laffy
Staff Governor and Principle Lecturer, Regent’s University London

Dominic is principal lecturer in strategic management in the faculty of business and management at Regent’s University London. He joined as an academic 25 years ago, first teaching information systems related subjects then focusing on strategic management. 
He served two 3 year terms on the Senate and separately the Joint Consultative Committee. He has conducted joint research and presented resulting papers at the British Academy of Management and International Design Connexion conferences. In 2012/2013 he served as associate head of department for the department of marketing and strategy.

Dominic Laffy
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Sarah Cowls
Director of Student and Academic Services, Queen Mary University of London

Sarah Cowls is the Director of Student and Academic Services at Queen Mary University of London. She has been a member of the university governing body for three years, as the elected member for non-academic staff. As Director of Student and Academic Services Sarah is responsible for Library Services, Careers and Enterprise, Student Wellbeing, E-Learning, and some elements of development for academic staff, she also has a wider responsibility for the student experience across the university. Sarah has approximately 20 years of experience working in the higher education sector, covering a wide range of roles across faculties, schools, academic governance, quality assurance, student support and registry activities. She has completed the MBA in Higher Education Management and the AHUA Professional Services Directors Programme. Outside of Queen Mary, Sarah is a trustee for several organisations including the University Schools Trust MAT and the Panacea Charitable Trust.   

Sarah Cowls
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Ross Renton,
Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Worcester

Ross Renton is the Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester, UK. Ross has a wide range of responsibilities, including leading the strategy for delivering an outstanding student experience, which saw the University of Worcester shortlisted for Outstanding Support for Students (THE Awards 2018); widening participation and student success; partnerships (international, community and business); international student recruitment; resources (estates and facilities) and student/graduate employability. He represents the University at a national level on these issues and has been an advisor to several public and private organisations. 

Ross Renton

If you would like to find out more about our other governance events, please visit our Governance Development Programme page.

Find out more