Higher education is awash with requests and demands to provide data that demonstrate effectiveness and efficiency throughout the enterprise, known by some as a "culture of evidence." As overseers of academic enterprises, boards need to hold themselves accountable to the same standards of self-study, reflection, and continuous improvement that they require of their administrators, faculty, and staff. A wise person once said, “a governing board is responsible for two organizations: the asset it oversees, and itself.”
Over the past five years, hundreds of boards have invited AGB into the board room to dialog on getting governance right, ranging from keynote speakers on the top strategic issues facing higher education, to comprehensive board and presidential assessments.
Through these latter projects, boards and senior leaders have found success engaging in a conversation that is often overlooked—how to strengthen the work of the board and its partnership with the administration. Through the use of a confidential survey, individual board member interviews, or both, board members provide candid feedback about board performance and effectiveness. AGB’s process provides the guidance of a skilled facilitator and a report outlining areas where performance is inconsistent, unclear, or in need of improvement. AGB’s new board assessment survey addresses issues of board culture, composition, and structure; strengthens board-president relationships; educates board members about key responsibilities; and helps improve performance.
In enabling the board to focus on things that matter, this process helps board members fulfill their unique role as fiduciaries and ensure that cross-cutting strategic issues receive adequate board attention. Boards can’t afford to waste precious time micromanaging operational decisions at the expense of attending to strategies for long-term institutional success.