A recent history of good governance in higher education
The Committee of Scottish Chairs is the custodian of good higher education governance. Good governance evolves and the Chairs of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions believe every system is capable of further enhancement. It is now established practice in the governance of Scottish higher education that the Code of Good Governance shall be routinely reviewed and revised. This page hosts previous versions of the Code.
The 2017 Code
The 2017 review fulfilled a commitment to review the previous edition after three years, in line with the HE sector’s commitment to continuous enhancement. This edition was the product of an extensive evidence-based review of the Code, which began in 2016. It was conducted by a steering group that included representatives of students and the staff trade unions, other major stakeholders and independent voices.
The 2017 edition built on the solid foundations of the 2013 Code, but included a number of new and progressive elements. These were:
- new requirements on the membership of remuneration committees, such that no category of governing body member should be excluded from membership;
- a new requirement to seek views on senior remuneration from representatives of staff and students;
- new guidance on the kinds of evidence that remuneration committees should consider;
- a new section on equality and diversity;
- a requirement for an annual public meeting at which the Principal and members of the governing body should give an account of the institution’s performance and be available to answer questions;
- changes to ensure consistency with the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016.
Alongside the revised Code, the steering group published the conclusions and recommendations of the review. This document also gives more detail on the review process.
The 2013 Code
The 2013 Code consists of 18 Main Principles and supporting guidelines for each. It was developed following a recommendation of the 2012 Report of the Review of Higher Education Governance, which was chaired by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski. The Committee of Scottish Chairs was given responsibility for the production of the Code by agreement between the Scottish Funding Council and the the Scottish Government.
The process of development was an extensive programme of engagement and consultation with stakeholders in higher education. Over 80 separate meetings were held with over 350 staff, students and governors at every higher education institution in Scotland. This process was commissioned by the Committee of Scottish Chairs and led by a Steering Group Convened by Lord Robert Smith of Kelvin.
The 2013 Code addressed a number of the recommendations in Professor Prondzynski’s review whilst others were implemented, in modified form, through the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Act 2013 and the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016.
The 2013 Code had a significant impact
The Code was adopted by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) as constituting the principles of good practice in governance with which institutions are required to comply in the terms of the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Act 2013. Compliance with the Code became a condition on the payment of higher education institutions’ primary public funding.
Scotland’s higher education institutions responded quickly to the new expectations in the 2013 Code. This required universities to make a number of changes to their existing practice; changes which were discussed and agreed through universities’ governing bodies (the ‘Court’). Collectively over 350 changes were implemented in the first year of the new Code.
One of the most noticeable changes has been the impact on diversity in universities’ governing bodies. The Code set out new expectations that governing bodies should define goals for the equality and diversity of their membership and should review progress against these goals. Since the Code’s introduction there has been considerable progress in the gender balance among Chairs of Scotland’s universities. By autumn 2016 the HE sector had achieved a 50:50 gender balance among the role of Chairs.
The sector made a full report on progress with implementation a year after the Code’s introduction. This was published in early November 2014.