Mears, Anthony (2015) A Study of the Core Competencies of External Board Members in UK Universities. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Higher Education institutions in the UK are facing unprecedented pressure on their finances, with the commoditisation and marketisation of their portfolios, the need to diversify activities and behave similar to corporate enterprises. The corporate responsibility in each university rests with the board of governors who are a vital resource and can support institutions in addressing the many challenging external factors.
With the above backdrop, the purpose of this thesis is to explore the core competencies of external members of governing bodies in UK universities. It involves a critical evaluation of the effectiveness of board member recruitment, induction, development and appraisal.
An outcome of the research is that the top core skill proposed is the ability to challenge the Vice-Chancellor and the senior team. In addition, soft skills are seen to be rivalling traditional hard skills, such as financial/accounting expertise and general business competency, which still remain in demand. New board members, however, now need to offer a blend of generic hard and soft skills.
It is recommended that recruitment and selection should be more demanding to attract high-calibre individuals who should be offered a seamless induction and development programme including enhanced appraisals throughout their board member life cycle. Board succession planning and sustainability were further important elements, and institutions are encouraged to develop a five to ten year plan.
The study also recommends, as a medium-term solution, that the HE sector should engage more in discussion on the notion of remuneration for external board members to help address a number of challenges raised in the thesis.
Finally, the author has developed an innovative developmental framework as an applied model for universities to take advantage of, which offers a cycle of continuous quality improvement to help enhance the effectiveness of individual board members.

Final thesis - MEARS.pdf - Accepted Version

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