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GDP Role and Responsibilities of Staff Governors

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


10am -  Welcome and introductions                 

10.20am -  Policy landscape - Alexis Brown, Director of Policy and Advocacy, HEPI

11am - Understanding HE governance - Dr Catherine Baxter, University Secretary, Harper Adams University

11.40am - Break                                  

12pm - Composition of governing bodies and findings from Advance Board Diversity report - Aaron Porter, Associate Director (Governance), Advance HE

12.15pm - Question and answer session with a panel of staff governors including:  

  • Sarah Cowls, Director of Student and Academic Services, Queen Mary University of London
  • Dominic Laffy, Principal Lecturer in Strategic Management, Regent’s University London  

12.45pm - Break                      

1pm - Breakout discussions:                

  • Sharing experiences on the governing body            
  • Biggest surprise
  • Challenges                 
  • Development support             

1.30pm - Feedback                  

1.45pm - Wrap up and close   


Aaron Porter

Associate Director (Governance)
Advance HE
Aaron leads on Advance HE governance activity through the delivery of our national Governor Development Programme which engages with around 900 governors across the UK on an annual basis. He has extensive experience leading reviews of over 25 governing boards. Aaron was previously President of the National Union of Students (NUS) and also chair of trustees for the organisation.

Dr Catherine Baxter

University Secretary
Harper Adams University
Dr Catherine Baxter
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.

Sarah Cowls

Director of Student and Academic Services
Queen Mary University of London
Sarah Cowls
Sarah has been a member of the Queen Mary University governing body for five years, as the elected member for non-academic staff.  As Director of Student and Academic Services, she is responsible for Library Services, Careers and Enterprise, and Student Wellbeing, as well as wider responsibilities for the student experience across the university.

Dr Alexis Brown

Director of Policy and Advocacy
Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)
Dr Alexis Brown
Alexis Brown is Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). Previously, she worked at the Russell Group and UCL, and holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Oxford.

Dominic Laffy

Principal Lecturer in Strategic Management
Regent's University London
Dominic Laffy
Dominic joined Regent’s College in 1993 which went on via T.D.A.P. to become Regent’s University and has been teaching full-time since 2008.

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

Find out more