David Allen OBE: Good Governance in Wales

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David Allen OBE, chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw) discusses the importance of good governance for institutions to succeed in challenging political times.

Good governance is at the heart of institutional success. I am immensely grateful to members of governing bodies of universities and colleges who give so freely of their time, expertise and experience to support their senior teams and, through them, students and staff. The Leadership Foundation provides a development programme for governors which enables you to be supported, obtain information and to network.

Governors can only be as good as the information which they receive and seek out. You rely on authoritative, comparative data. You are also very busy and need information to be clearly signposted for you, by your institution, and sector and other bodies. Both Hefcw and the Leadership Foundation provide rich sources of material readily accessible via their websites.

Here in Wales we face a fascinating but challenging time following the Welsh government’s response to and approval of much of the recently published Diamond review of higher education. Diamond is in itself a rich source of information for governors. Commentators such as WonkHE and the HEPI have pointed out that, once (and if) implemented, Diamond provides a blueprint for the most sustainable and stable student support system in the UK for full-time and part-time undergraduates and postgraduates. The report envisages the current tuition fee regime (which benefits only Welsh domiciled full-time undergraduates) being withdrawn over time in favour of grant support for living costs and income contingent loans repayable after graduation to cover tuition for taught programmes at all levels and modes of study. The proposals are accompanied by recommendations, for example, to provide more support through Hefcw for expensive subjects and research. It is expected that the reforms, subject to treasury consent and revised Student Loan’s Company arrangements will be introduced gradually from Autumn 2018, since it will take several years for the existing system to unwind. Welsh domiciled students would receive support for living costs wherever they choose to study in the UK and possibly wider afield.

In the meantime Wales, along with the rest of the UK, needs to face and deal with the consequences and opportunities of Brexit. Research and student support in relation to the EU is currently protected but until we know the shape of the Brexit deal there will be considerable uncertainty for higher education providers. What is certain, however, is that well-led, governed and managed institutions, which are clear about their missions and know their place in the market will, as always, be better placed to succeed.

In the meantime, the Leadership Foundation will continue to convene meetings and seminars to support governors, including the ‘Shaping Governance in Wales’ event planned for Thursday 6 April 2017 and taking place in Aberystwyth, with a live stream to Cardiff. I look forward to seeing you there.

David Allen OBE has been Chair of Hefcw since 2014 and on the board since 2008, has a wealth of experience in higher education leadership, governance and management, having previously held the role of registrar (2003–2013) and deputy chief executive (2009-2013) at the University of Exeter.

For more information and to book a place on the ‘Shaping Governance in Wales’ event for Governors of Welsh Institutions, please click here.

 The Leadership Foundation has a wealth of information, tools and tips on its Governance website, tailored to the specific needs of Governors of Higher Education institutions and colleges. For more information visit: www.lfhe.ac.uk/governance

 To see the upcoming Governor Development Programmes please click here