A study of the role of governing boards in African higher education institutions

Copyright College of Health Sciences

This research program investigates the governance practices of African Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by focusing on the structures and processes at the apex of HEIs, and their effectiveness and/or contribution towards a range of outcomes. In particular, it studies the features of the HEI’s main decision making body (typically referred to as Council or governing board) and how it provides oversight and/or support to management (typically represented by the Vice-Chancellor and other top managers), often in light of statutory, regulatory and/or other stakeholder-led obligations.

HEIs worldwide are facing a number of key demands from students, employers, funders, relating for example to educational outcomes, research quality, and meeting national human resource needs (e.g. employability), whilst at the same time having to ensure financial and operational sustainability. Therefore, questions arise as to how HEI boards and related governing structures can shape institutional strategies, and contribute to organisational outcomes. These questions are crucial in the context of African developing countries due to the enabling role of the tertiary education sector. However, little is known about the characteristics of HEI governing boards, and how they operate. Consequently, this exploratory research will first assess the composition of governing boards in a sample of HEIs from selected African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania and Mauritius) by relying on publicly available information.The perspectives of governing board members are incorporated in the research undertaken by the group to develop authentic insights on governing practices and processes.

Initial findings will be put to the wider constituency of governing boards and related stakeholders (e.g. regulatory/funding bodies). In addition to highlighting differences and similarities in practices, the outcome will include the development of a detailed research and improvement agenda, in consultation with stakeholders, to consider in more depth and breadth the different aspects of HEI governance for comprehensive (funded) studies.

Expected Outcomes

  1. Establish a long standing research group that will continue to talk and meet around research issue and contribute to collaborative work:
  2. Policy input / dissemination:
    • British Council Going Global Conference (May 2016, Cape Town) - request made for a special track.
    • Association of Commonwealth Universities (Oct 2016, Mauritius) – request made for a parallel sessions.