Governance Culture: Navigating policy, politics and people

Peridot Partners is delighted to be the sponsor of the Advance HE Governance Conference 2023. Dr Sophie Carney and Drew Richardson-Walsh will be exhibiting at the Conference and look forward to meeting many of you there.

Ahead of the conference, Sophie has been considering the themes of this year’s programme and reflecting on her experiences of recruiting a range of governance roles in the higher education sector.

Understanding the higher education governance landscape.

According to the Office for Students, there are over 400 higher education providers on their Register, which includes traditional universities, small specialists, private providers and charities. Regardless of size, every single one will be governed by a council or board consisting of non-executive directors who, for the most part, give their time and expertise to the institution voluntarily. Based on a slightly crude estimation, there must be at least 4,000 people serving as higher education governors in England alone, and this number is probably quite conservative considering the size and scale of some university governance structures.

The skills, expertise and approach of every single one of these 4,000+ people will support, challenge, transform and impact the culture of governance in their organisation. Putting HEI sector governance into this context highlights just how important the themes of this year’s conference are, not only to those volunteering their time to one of the 100s of boards and councils across England, but also to those professionals and leaders within an institution who can shape and be shaped by the culture of governance.

Creating healthy board dynamics.

Jane Hamilton will be addressing the conference with her keynote speech about the factors that enable a healthy board culture and there will a workshop session about navigating board dynamics. Ultimately, the success of higher education providers to deliver a strong culture of good governance and board dynamics that enable healthy support, challenge and scrutiny will have a significant impact on the experiences of the nearly three million students studying across UK higher education every year.

With so much riding on the success of individuals coming together as a collective group and creating a healthy governance culture, what should you be doing as an organisation to ensure you create an environment in which governors can thrive and fulfil their duties to the best of their abilities and in the institution’s best interests?

Understand candidate needs.

In my experience of recruiting to a range of governance roles, I always encounter the same questions from those exploring these opportunities, whether this is their first non-executive role in HE or not:

  • What is the culture of the board?
  • What induction and support does the institution offer?
  • How can I make an impact?

The answers to the last two questions will inevitably inform the answer to the first.

As recruiters, we want to shine a light on the fabulous work you do in the sector and showcase to potential candidates that you are truly living by the values you promote as an institution from the very top down.

So, what are you doing as an organisation to create the kind of governance culture that will attract, retain and support the diverse, talented and committed people you want to join your board?

We are looking forward hearing from conference delegates about their experiences of governance culture across the higher education sector and gaining some insights into these questions I have posed. We’d love to hear from you via LinkedIn, email or in person with your thoughts!



Dr Sophie Carney our Managing Consultant for Higher Education Appointments in our Education Practice. With her extensive experience within the HE sector and passion for working with organisations that have a strong social mission, Sophie can support you to recruit outstanding leaders and non-executive directors who are committed to improving every student’s experience and ensuring the best outcomes for all.

Learn more about working with us