University Governance within Australia can be affected by various factors, including changes to legislation regarding Governing Bodies of universities, as well as sources of funding for universities. The below information gives an overview of a Chancellor’s role within an Australian university, as well as current and recent factors that are affecting university governance.

The Role of a Chancellor

A Chancellor is the formal head of a university, working closely with the Vice-Chancellor and President. Their relationship may be seen broadly as that between a Chair and a CEO.

A Chancellor chairs the university’s governing body, and is expected to champion exemplary standards of ethical governance and integrity. The governing body – variously called a Council, Senate or Board of Trustees – has collective responsibility for providing oversight of a university’s strategic planning and its educational, financial, commercial and legal accountabilities. It is responsible for the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor and monitors his/her performance.

A Chancellor articulates the role of members of the governing body and is active in recommending new members. A Chancellor will encourage the collaborative contribution of all those who serve, promoting open discussion and transparent decision making.

A Chancellor plays a prominent representative role in the life of the university, including presiding at ceremonial occasions such as graduations. In this capacity a Chancellor symbolises and embodies the values and educational purpose of the university. A Chancellor seeks to exemplify the high standards of the university within the wider community.

Chancellors also advocate for their university’s interests. They are expected to have an extensive and comprehensive knowledge of the university and a visible commitment to its mission. They will have the stature necessary to win the respect of leaders in the public, private and community sectors and to encourage benefactors to provide philanthropic support for the university’s activities.

Chancellors cannot be easily stereotyped. They are women and men from a variety of backgrounds. Almost always, they will have held senior positions in business, the armed forces, the public service and/or the not-for-profit sector. They possess strong networks that can be harnessed to win support for the aspirations of their university. The manner in which they do so will depend to a large extent on their individual character.

For further information, refer to Victoria University’s paper The Role of the Chancellor opens-in-a-new-window.

Funding of Australian Universities

Universities Australia released a paper in November 2013 entitled Higher Education and Research Facts and Figures opens-in-a-new-window. This paper details the key sources of funding for Australian universities.

Legislation Affecting University Governance in Australia

Australian universities are established by Acts of Parliament. These acts regulate aspects of university governance, including the size and composition of their governing bodies (Councils, Senates, Boards, etc.). As new legislation is introduced or current legislation is updated, the composition of university governing bodies can be affected, which in turn can affect the way that they operate.

The University Chancellors Council (UCC) has conducted research into legislative changes introduced since 2010 that have had an affect on governing bodies within Australian universities (Legislative Changes Affecting the Governance of Australian Universitiesopens-in-a-new-window. This research also includes a comparison of the composition of governing bodies within Australian universities as they currently stand. This research is updated on a regular basis, with updates triggered by a change in legislation or a change in the composition of a university’s governing body.

In 2010, Universities Australia developed the ‘Voluntary Code of Best Practice for the Governance of Australian Universities‘ opens-in-a-new-window. This was endorsed by the University Chancellors Council in 2010, and then by the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment in 2011.

University Governance

An article relating to University Governance was first published in the March 2017 edition of the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Company Director magazine. The original version of the article is available from http://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/membership/company-director-magazine/2017-back-editions/march/university-challenge