External College Governance Reviews – What happens next?

Latest blog ‘External College Governance Reviews – What happens next?written by Candy Munro and Ron Hill highlights key areas of the recently published CDN Insight Report.

Rationale and Approach

There is general agreement that external governance reviews are important and demonstrate a board’s commitment to continuous improvement. However, this tends to be based on personal belief and experience rather than any demonstrable evidence. Up until now there has been little understanding about what actually happens after an external governance review has been completed.

This was the starting point of our research. We wanted to understand what happened next, what were processes and practices that followed the review and most importantly what was ultimate impact on the governance of that college.

Given it had been two years since the completion of the last round of external reviews this was an opportune time to consider what difference these reviews have made to the performance of a governing board for the benefit of learning and teaching in colleges.
The timescale for these reviews has changed since the last round, moving from a cycle of every 3 years to every 3 to 5 years. College boards should determine the timing for this externally facilitated review as part of their annual effectiveness review.

We identified a representative cross section of colleges, we read their external reviews and we interviewed the Chair, Principal and Governance Professional from each of these colleges.

Our Findings

From our discussions it was clear that great value was placed on both the process and the outcome of the external review which provided a catalyst for improvement. Some described the outcome as being ‘transformational’.

Unsurprisingly the Governance Professional plays a crucial role in shaping the response to the review, drafting improvement action plans, and tracking progress. Some Governance Professionals reported that they benefited from a stronger professional status as a result.

Evidence suggests two general responses to the external review reports.

1. Validation, Assurance, and Improvement

This is where the review presented limited, or no recommendations and the emphasis was on the validation of effective governing practice. However, even in these cases improvement plans were developed to strengthen governing practices.

2. Improvement

This response was the most common, this was where the EER presented recommendations for improvement, and this provided a catalyst for action to improve governing practice.

Some colleges reported significant improvements in governing practice and processes, ranging from positive cultural change to more specific elements of governing such as improvements to Board member induction and more effective use of strategic KPIs.

We extend our thanks to all who contributed to this study.

Read CDN Insight Report here

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