The Board of Directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has issued a new Statement on Shared Governance, one of higher education’s most distinctive—and misunderstood—values.
The new statement is the latest in a series of commentaries on key issues in higher education leadership and governance released by the AGB board in recent years. This latest installment calls on governing boards to become more educated about shared governance at their institutions; understand and promote its value; and help develop policies to ensure its effectiveness.
“In this increasingly volatile environment, shared governance in higher education is more essential than ever,” said AGB President Richard D. Legon. “Shared governance is often misunderstood—but it adds real value to institutional progress and innovation. It is more than who is responsible for what, it’s about how key constituencies—faculty, administrators, and members of the board—engage in addressing critical issues around a commonly supported mission.”
The new board statement was preceded by a 2016 AGB study on the state of shared governance, which resulted in the development of 12 institution case studies and a white paper available on the AGB website. Four principles for boards to consider in their roles as fiduciaries are included in the new statement:
- Boards should commit to ensuring a broad understanding of shared governance and the value it offers an institution or system.
- For shared governance to work, it must be based on a culture of meaningful engagement.
- Shared governance requires a consistent commitment by institutional and board leaders.
- Institutional policies that define shared governance should be reviewed periodically to ensure their currency and applicability.
“Higher education is experiencing increasing external challenges and demands for public accountability,” said AGB Board of Directors Chair David W. Miles, a trustee of Drake University (IA). “At such a time, upholding shared governance’s unique principles of inclusion in decision making is especially important. The AGB Board of Directors hopes that this statement will encourage governing boards and institutional leaders to reaffirm the value of shared governance and recommit to it in their practices.”