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Is an advisory board the same as an advisory council? What is an advisory board’s purpose?

 “Board” and “council” are two of the many names used by advisory groups at institutions of higher education. A 2006 AGB survey of 500 higher education advisory boards and councils showed that forty-two percent of advisory groups include the word “council” in their names, (for example, the Dean's Council or President’ s Council). Another 38 percent are called “boards,” such as Dean’s Board of Advisors, President’s Advisory Board, etc. Six percent are called the Board of Visitors, which is also the name of the governing board at some institutions. The remainder are known by various other titles, including Roundtable, Board of Associates, Circle, etc.

Membership of advisory groups is selective, with members elected or appointed through some process. Though advisory bodies may include faculty or other internal members, their membership primarily comprises individuals from outside the campus. Advisory bodies operate at many different levels in the institution. Some meet with the president while others meet with deans and faculty. They may serve an entire institution, college, professional school, department, program or discipline. Their roles, activities, and responsibilities also vary widely from one institution to another. Some have fairly clear responsibilities to help with fundraising while others are asked primarily to give advice on curriculum, help with specialized accreditation, and connect faculty and students with industry. Still others help with recruitment and retention. Many have a combination of these responsibilities.

The most important difference between governing boards and advisory groups in higher education is that advisory groups have no legal responsibility for governing their institutions. The governing board has sole possession of fiduciary responsibility and legal authority.

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