Joint CEO Susie Hills recently had a chat with new Consulting Kea Horvers on all things charity and healthcare governance. Here’s how it went:

Susie: Welcome Kea! It’s great to have you on the team. You have worked across the health, charity and education sectors. At Halpin we are keen to bring learnings from other sectors to HE. What best practice in governance in the charity and health sectors do you think HE could adopt?

Kea: Hi Susie! I am delighted to be here. I would suggest actively seeking out board members who have had direct experience of the problems the university wishes to solve. Harness their expertise and perception to further improve the board’s collective wisdom.

Susie: You have worked in governance roles providing interim cover. How do you think institutions can get best value from an interim role?

Kea: It can be helpful to really think about what the university wants the interim to achieve so they can have the most impact in their role. Remember that interims want to work alongside and support you. As an added bonus, their experience of working at several institutions means they may be able to provide fresh insight into how your university’s culture is currently influencing its outcomes.

Susie: What do you think the main challenges universities face this autumn in terms of governance?

Kea: Keeping a tight grip on compliance with the OfS regulations. How might OfS changes to teaching, quality and funding regulation impact on university strategy? How can universities ensure there are no surprises in terms of Board understanding of the student experience at their institution? And of course any wild cards thrown in by the COVID pandemic.

Susie: Nearly every one of our governance clients are seeking ways to reduce the information load on governors – to make papers shorter and easier to digest and respond to. Do you have any magic bullets to help?

Kea: Set aside time with the board to discuss this matter in depth. What data must the board examine in full to be compliant? What data does the board think is sufficient? How might this differ from the Executive’s view? Experiment with a different format for one or two papers and set aside time at the Board meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the new system. See this as a learning experience for everyone and after one full cycle of the board year, evaluate: what worked, what didn’t, and whether there were any unintended outcomes.

Kea Horvers is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin, the home of experts in higher education governance.