22 SES 09 B, Governance Reforms and Education Markets
In the paper we examine to what extent, recent governance reforms to European higher education institutions involving the greater presence of external governing board members (Shattock 2014) are affecting how universities operate and the balance of power between academics, manager-academics and board members. Governance reforms in European HE were originally based on normative assumptions associated with the need for universities to be simultaneously open and relevant to the social and economic fabric but also to have increased institutional autonomy, thus enabling a speedier response to changes in organizational environment and the need to improve performance. Such reforms have led to much less emphasis on collegial academic decision-making and a greater emphasis on boards’ involvement in a wider range of decisions (Rowlands 2013). We illustrate our arguments with reference to Portugal and the UK, which have HE governance systems emphasizing external stakeholders’ importance on governing boards, and where there have been recent changes and enhancements to the role of those boards. We call this ‘boardism’ (Veiga, Magalhaes et al. 2015), which refers to a distinctive governance praxis in higher education with normative as well as technical and practical elements and the shifting balance of power between academics, managers and representatives of external interests. In the Portuguese system, external stakeholder governors still appear to occupy a role as ‘non-interfering friends’ (Magalhães, Veiga et al. 2016), whilst in England, developments to how teaching quality assessment is conducted and other changes, point to a more interventionist governors’ role in institutional oversight. Furthermore the relationship between the Vice Chancellor/Rector and the governing board Chair is becoming ever more important in the UK (Rushforth 2017). Both systems charge fees to attend public universities but the English system is much more highly marketised than the Portuguese system, despite the presence of a big private sector in Portugal than in England.
Theoretically we make use of network governance theory (Jones, Hesterly et al. 1997, Newman 2001) and new managerialism (Deem, Hillyard et al. 2007, Magalhães, Veiga et al. 2017, Deem 2017a). This combination allows us to focus on the informality of networked governance relationships where who someone is and who they know may be as influential as formal bureaucratic structures and roles but also to analyse how different forms of new managerialism (‘hard’ and ‘soft’) have led to variations in ideologically-driven forms of governance and management of universities (Magalhães, Veiga et al. 2017). New Managerialism, whilst always stressing the primacy of management in higher education organisations, because it varies in emphasis from ‘hard managerialism’ with hierarchies, performance indicators and measurement of outcomes to ‘soft managerialism’ using distributed leadership, collaboration and negotiation, can lead to big differences in organizational cultures and climate. Soft managerialism may work well when focusing on the student experience but hard managerialism is often preferred by leaders for driving academic performance in research (Leisyte, Enders et al. 2008) and in England, is now impinging on teaching with the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (Department for Business Innovation and Skills 2016) and risk-based forms of quality assessment of teaching. We also locate our paper in relation to research specifically examining the role of external stakeholder governors (Veiga, Magalhaes et al. 2015, Magalhães, Veiga et al. 2016). Unlike other recent research on European HE governing bodies focused on the quality and effectiveness of decision-making within boards (Marnet and Soobaroyen 2017), our primary interest is in exploring the effect of greater responsibilities being given to boards, on the shifting balance of power within universities and particularly academic self-governance.
We draw on examples taken from both Portugal and the UK. The two case studies offer contrasting practices in implementing governance regimes. We draw on policy and other documents, media coverage, relevant surveys and empirical studies and personal experiences of or about the experience of university level governance in both countries. We use our two case studies to explain how governance fits into the public HE systems in both countries and how those systems function, to demonstrate the differing roles of external stakeholder governors in the two countries and show how what they are asked to do makes a big difference to their engagement in the university concerned, both to overall power relations and particularly to the balance of governing boards’, management and academics’ involvement in institutional and strategic decision making. Existing research, as noted, has developed the idea of external stakeholders as ‘non-interfering friends’ (Veiga, Magalhaes et al. 2015, Magalhães, Veiga et al. 2016). But this is now being challenged in UK settings as more intervention by lay governors is encouraged, especially in connection with new so-called ‘risk based’ quality assurance mechanisms. Our analyses suggest that in the UK (England), external board members are perhaps becoming closer to being ‘interfering friends’, something already a possibility in the crucial relationship between governing body chairs and heads of universities (Rushforth 2017). We note and explore the threat that this represents to academic self-governance via bodies such as Senates and Academic Boards, especially where, as is the case in England, there are no safeguards protecting academic governance, unlike in Portugal. The concepts of ‘boardism’ and non-interfering friends and theories of new managerialism and networked governance are used to analyse the differences and similarities between each case study’s governance arrangements and academic self-governance.
There are significant differences in the roles of external governing body stakeholders across Europe, though ‘boardism’ is pervasive. In the UK, Senates retain some collegial academic self-governance over teaching and research, with Boards of Governors having power over finance, estates, strategy and staffing. But a radical change to quality assessment in 2016 in England went from independent agency periodic institutional audits to a risk-based system based on sign-off of annual reports about quality assessment mechanisms and quality enhancements by governing bodies. Yet with the recent shrinkage in governing body size, knowledge of higher education matters amongst external governors has almost vanished. Hard managerialism is now pervasive in England. In Portugal, the actual influence of networks of external board members in managing internal quality assurance processes remains to be seen (Rosa and Teixeira 2014). External board members are co-opted by members elected by university constituencies and accountable to the Ministry of Higher Education. In the five university-foundations, there is accountability to the board of trustees, with external members nominated by the Ministry after institutional consultation. They have no capacity to intervene in academic matters, so academic self-governance remains alongside a softer form of managerialism. In 2000, external stakeholders could be viewed as Portuguese higher education institutions’ imaginary friends, with no legal mandate to influence strategies (Magalhães and Amaral 2000). Magalhães et al (2016), drawing on a European-wide survey of Rectors and Senate members, found external board members viewed as representing societal interests and bringing broader views to the university, though Rectors/Presidents preferred to see board members’ having a non-interfering role in internal matters. ‘Non-interfering’ is being challenged in England and loss of academic self-governance encouraged by policy changes. However, perhaps the unpopularity of Brexit in Europe and UK HE’s struggles with it (Mayhew 2017) will reduce the likelihood of policy-borrowing.
Deem, R. (2017a). New Managerialism in Higher Education. Encyclopaedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions. J. C. Shin and P. Texeira. Dordrecht, Springer. Deem, R., et al. (2007). Knowledge, Higher Education and the New Managerialism: The Changing Management of UK Universities. Oxford, Oxford University Press. Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2016). Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice London Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Jones, C., et al. (1997). "A general theory of network governance: Exchange conditions and social mechanisms." Academy of Management Review, 22(4): 911‑945. Leisyte, L., et al. (2008). "The Freedom to Set Research Agendas — Illusion and Reality of the Research Units in the Dutch Universities. ." Higher Education Policy 21(3): 377-391. Magalhães, A. and A. Amaral (2000). "Portuguese Higher Education and the Imaginary Friend: the Stakeholders role in Institutional Governance." European Journal of Education 35(4): 437-446. Magalhães, A., et al. (2016). " The changing role of external stakeholders: from imaginary friends to effective actors or non-interfering friends." Studies in Higher Education. Magalhães, A., et al. (2017). Hard and soft managerialism in Portuguese higher education governance. The University as a Critical Institution? R. Deem and H. Eggins. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers Marnet, O. and T. Soobaroyen (2017). The Quality of Board Decision Making Processes in Higher Education Institutions unpublished paper given to Society for Research into Higher Education Annual Conference Celtic Manor, Newport, Gwent, Wales, UK Mayhew, K. (2017). "UK higher education and Brexit " Oxford Review of Economic Policy: 155-161. Newman, J. (2001). Modernising governance : New Labour, policy and society. London, Sage 2001. Rosa, M. J. and P. Teixeira (2014). " Policy Reforms, Trojan Horses, and Imaginary Friends: The Role of External Stakeholders in Internal Quality Assurance Systems." Higher Education Policy 27(2): 219-237. Rowlands, J. (2013). "Academic boards: less intellectual and more academic capital in higher education governance?" Studies in Higher Education 38(9): 1274-1289. Rushforth, J. (2017). Managing the Chair/Vice Chancellor Relationship London, Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Shattock, M., Ed. (2014). International Trends in University Governance.: Autonomy, Self-government and the Distribution of Authority London & New York, Routledge Veiga, A., et al. (2015). From Collegial Governance to Boardism: Reconfiguring Governance in Higher Education. The Palgrave International Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance. J. Huisman et al, London and New York, Palgrave: 398-416.
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