The democratic university: a proposal for university governance for the common weal

Document type
Murray, Craig; MCAlpine, Robin; Pollock, Allyson
Jimmy Reid Foundation
Date of publication
7 November 2013
Education and Skills
Social welfare
Material type

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It is currently argued that universities are too complex to be governed by anything other than a professional class of managers. The implication is that the governance of universities must be modelled on that of the corporate sector. In response this paper argues that universities are large national civic institutions with a primary responsibility to their own community of academics and learners. The vast majority of university business is domestic, not international. And since universities must be seen to be ‘owned’ by their wider community, a governance model which is based on internal
managerial control does not appear appropriate.

This paper therefore proposes that the long-term strategic role of universities should be protected from radical-change-without-consent by democratising the governance structure. University courts should become bodies wholly elected by the wider university community (staff and students) and the role of the university principal and the senior management team should be to advise that body and to enact its will.