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News: Unions, universities and regulator endorse new approach to governance in Wales

Today the university sector in Wales has published its response to the independent review of governance in Wales, led by Gillian Camm, which set out to ‘enable governors to operate at the leading edge of good corporate governance both in terms of compliance and crucially boardroom culture’. This review, which was commissioned by the Chairs and Vice-Chancellors of the universities in Wales, ran between July and December 2019. It highlighted a number of key governance values including trust, accountability, transparency, engagement, challenge, and competence.

The review also outlined key themes including that the governing body in each university should:

  • have a clear appreciation of the culture of the organisation
  • ensure that stakeholders, in particular staff, students and strategic partners are in a position to engage with and contribute to the key strategies of the university
  • ensure that challenge and discussion is encouraged throughout the organisation

In response to the review, the university sector in Wales has published a Governance Charter for Universities in Wales and a Commitment to Action. These documents endorse the major findings of the review, recognise the challenges that have been seen to governance both in Wales and across the UK and the need for collective commitment to action.

The charter maps out an approach to transforming governance which will be adopted by every university in Wales. This document has been agreed by the Chairs of universities and Vice-Chancellors and demonstrates their commitment to a change programme around university governance.

Dr Emyr Roberts, Chair of the Chairs of Universities Wales, said: “Universities in Wales are determined to ensure the highest possible standards of governance, which is why the independent review was commissioned to identify best practice throughout the sector and beyond.

“We welcome the report and its recommendations and together with partners we have agreed a Governance Charter and Commitment to Action. The Chairs of university governing bodies have a responsibility now to implement the actions in their institutions, and we look forward to working with the university community on taking this important initiative forward.”

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Chair of Universities Wales, said: “I would like to thank Gillian Camm for this thorough and comprehensive review of university governance which has provided the sector with a set of clear recommendations to support universities in being at the leading edge of good governance.

“Universities in Wales play a crucial role nationally, internationally and in their local communities. They make a critical contribution to the Welsh economy and are key anchor organisations for cities and towns across the country.

“We realise that this work presents challenge for the sector but against this background, with the changing higher education landscape across the UK, this is the right approach to ensure our governance systems are fit for the future. That’s why are we pleased to be able to, along with our partners and stakeholders, commit to this change programme.”

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said: “We welcome the publication of this timely report, which will help to position the higher education sector in Wales at the leading edge of international good practice in governance. The outcomes will help to support the vital work undertaken by governors in universities, and we are pleased that all heads of universities and their chairs of governors have signed up to the resulting Charter.

“It is critical that governing bodies are able to provide effective oversight of their institution, including an appropriate level of test and challenge to their executive, and this commitment will no doubt serve to enhance the standards of governance in Welsh universities.”

Margaret Phelan, Wales official for the University and College Union, said “ I believe that union members in Wales will welcome this report and the commitment made by the Chairs of Universities and Vice Chancellors to support universities to be at the leading edge of good governance.”

Dan Beard of UNISON Cymru/Wales Higher Education Executive said “UNISON is pleased with the outcome of this review, our members argued that we needed change for University governance to be more transparent, accountable and effective.  The way ourselves and our sister trade union UCU were involved in this review is in line with the social partnership model that has developed in the Welsh public sector and championed by the Welsh Government.  We look forward to seeing the commitments of this Governance charter actioned as soon as practicable”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

 

Related documents

 

Spokespeople and further information

  • Spokespeople are available for interview upon request. Please direct any press queries to Kieron.Rees@uniswales.ac.uk or 02920 448025.

Background 

  • The Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of universities in Wales, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), commissioned Gillian Camm to deliver an independent review of governance of the universities in Wales (the Camm Review).
  • The terms of reference for the review were to include:
    • The composition of the governing body
    • The Process and quality of decision making
    • The relationship between the executive and the governing body
    • The remuneration of chairs and governance
  • The outcome from the review would be guidance designed to ‘enable governors to operate at the leading edge of good corporate governance’.
  • This review ran between July and December 2019 and has:
    • Looked at governance failures across a variety of sectors to identify what happened and why
    • Examined the governance codes from different sectors to understand emerging themes
    • Looked to academic literature to appreciate important learning points
    • Carried out a series of interviews with individuals both inside and outside of Welsh Higher Education
  • The review made 21 recommendations, stating that the recommendations in the report need to form part of a governance change agenda across Wales. The report recommended that there should be a public document from the sector to this effect, a ‘Charter for Change’.
  • In response to this, the university sector in Wales has produced the Governance Charter for Universities in Wales and the accompanying Commitment to Action which sets out the actions that the sector will take in response to the Camm Review.
  • The Charter is a commitment to the development of a change programme around governance including specific sector-wide actions. This Charter should always be interpreted in the context of the report and be seen as a living document.
  • Each university in Wales will provide an update on progress in their annual reports beginning in the autumn of 2020. HEFCW will also provide regular updates in relation to the work they are leading on and will also produce reports commenting on progress made against the commitments.