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ERIC Number: EJ848179
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0818-8068
Duty, Discretion and Conflict: University Governance and the Legal Obligations of University Boards
Corcoran, Suzanne
Australian Universities' Review, v46 n2 p30-37 2004
In recent years university governance has come in from the cold, so to speak, and is now the subject of some debate in political and academic venues. The core issue for debate is the appropriateness and effectiveness of current university governance structures. This debate is particularly critical in light of the increased professionalisation of universities and university administrators; and, the increased extension of university activities beyond teaching and research to other more complex, often hybrid, activities which may carry with them new legal and commercial risks. A starting point has to be a clarification of what is meant by "university governance". As a legal matter, governance is not just a question of how one structures the governing board of an institution. That may seem like stating the obvious but most proposals for reform of governance, corporate or university, focus principally on the responsibilities of board members and ignore very important structural and institutional issues. Governance, in fact refers first of all to the legal allocation of decision making power within a university between various governance structures (such as faculties, academic boards, senates and councils) and administrative or "management" structures (such as departments, divisions, pro-Vice-Chancellors, deputies and Vice-Chancellors). It is an ecosystem with interdependent parts. Secondly, governance also refers to the allocation of both responsibility and accountability for the exercise of that decision making power. The legal validity of corporate acts will often depend on whether principles of corporate governance have been observed. Australian universities like to adopt private-sector practices when it suits them. But they often remain perilously vague about the legal implications of doing so. In this article, the author examines the uncertain legal status of the prevailing governance culture and presents as an example the case of the University of Adelaide. Putting to one side any suggestion that Australian universities should have a uniform Act, the author suggests a few possible changes to current university governance practice which could improve the ability of university governing boards to fulfil their legal and institutional duties. (Contains 29 endnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia