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New Academic Governance Effectiveness Reviews launched by Advance HE

09 Jan 2024 | Dan Tinkler Dan Tinkler, Governance Development Manager at Advance HE, introduces a new offer to enhance academic governance.

Over the past year, Advance HE has been working with sector partners, Universities UK, GuildHE and the Committee of University Chairs (CUC), to further understand the higher education sector’s approach to academic assurance. This has been set against a backdrop of increased regulation and the need to evidence positive student outcomes - whether as B Conditions of Registration in England, or as part of funding requirements and Bicameral Reviews in Scotland and Wales - an increased political interest in higher education and a need to evidence value for money, and the rapidly developing role of AI in HE. As such there is an ever-increasing need for both academic boards and governing bodies to seek assurance of effective academic governance.

External review

The concept of undertaking periodic external effectiveness reviews of the governing body has become the norm and is a key requirement of multiple governance codes including the CUC Code, the Scottish Code of Good HE Governance, and the Independent HE Code of Governance. However, undertaking external reviews of academic governance is a more recent development. Historically the majority of work has been undertaken internally, but an external review can help provide confidence and assurance that academic governance culture and processes are delivering effective outcomes for both internal and external stakeholders.

The governance maturity framework wheel
The governance maturity framework wheel

Academic governance effectiveness survey

One of the most common pieces of feedback we’ve heard from the sector is the need to understand and benchmark performance in academic governance in a similar manner to the way governing bodies can. Working with representatives from across the sector we recently developed a new academic governance effectiveness survey that has been piloted with seven institutions, ranging from large research-intensive universities to small independent specialists. The survey asks members of academic boards to rate themselves across key themes to produce a sector benchmark. The themes of the survey are:

  • Commitment to effective governance
  • Academic governance and assurance
  • Structure and processes
  • Recruitment and membership
  • EDI
  • Working relationships and behaviours
  • Outcomes of effective governance
  • The committees

Advance HE’s new offer for academic governance

Working with our sector representatives we responded to feedback that Advance HE needed to develop a range of options to suit providers, complementing rather than duplicating work already undertaken by internal teams of governance professionals. The offer needed to suit multiple budgets and deliver value for money, without compromising the quality of a robust external effectiveness review. As such we have co-developed a tiered offer with a suite of options ranging from a full effectiveness review, to an exploration or a discovery review. All are underpinned by sector benchmarking.

  1. Full Review – This offer resembles the more widely established governance effectiveness review and includes: working with a steering group at the institution to deliver our unique benchmarking survey, a full document and evidence review, observations of academic board and committees, interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders, and production and (if required) presentation of a full report with recommendations.


  1. Discovery – This offer is designed to add value to work already being undertaken by governance teams in-house. Advance HE will run our unique benchmarking survey, providing you with an initial analysis. This will be complemented by observations of the Academic Board and interviews with key stakeholders, before a condensed summary report with initial recommendations is prepared.


  1. Exploratory – An opportunity to benchmark your institution using our unique survey. You will receive an analytical report plus a workshop to discuss key findings and the implementation of a supporting action plan. This offer is designed to support the start of any internal effectiveness work being undertaken.

By providing these options we aim to support institutions deliver robust and effective academic governance. At a time when the role of HE and delivering effective outcomes for students is receiving additional scrutiny, we aim to provide assurance to institutions and their stakeholders by complementing the work already undertaken by institutions. All of our reviews are delivered by an expert team of governance associates in a manner that delivers value for money and connects unique insights across the sector.


Dan joined Advance HE in January 2020 and has been in the post of Governance Development Manager since October 2021. Dan works on developing our approach to supporting Advance HE’s member needs across our governance portfolio of work. Find out more about Dan.

Our Academic Governance Effectiveness Reviews provide academic boards or senates with evidence to provide assurance to the institution’s governing body, as well as, the foundations for transformative change to support the ongoing effectiveness of academic governance. Find out more.

Information webinar

25 January 2024, 10:30 - 11:15 (BST)

Dan Tinkler, Governance Development Manager, Advance HE will host an information session to share more details about Academic Governance Effectiveness Reviews. Book your place.


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