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Active Authority or Latent Legitimacy? The perceived impact of the institutional visibility of the university governing body amongst staff on governance effectiveness

Dawkins, A; (2015) Active Authority or Latent Legitimacy? The perceived impact of the institutional visibility of the university governing body amongst staff on governance effectiveness. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis adopts a contingent constructionist approach to examine university governing body visibility amongst staff, as an unexamined factor in the literature. Institutional visibility includes the profiling and projection of the formal, collective actions and decisions of the board within the university, through to less formal exchanges and encounters of governors in the university setting. The perceived impact of these activities on the board’s effectiveness, including the performance of its accountability, stewardship and strategic responsibilities are explored. Five key dimensions to institutional visibility are identified, in: supporting the board’s formal accountabilities; enabling board interaction with staff; facilitating organisational change; influencing relations between the board and senior management, and modelling and manifesting university mission and values. The qualitative mixed methods approach comprises discourse analysis of online role descriptors of the board, followed by semi-structured interviewing of board secretaries and two vice-chancellors across the HEIs in the sample. The research found that governor visibility through interaction with staff outside the ‘boardroom’ was perceived as a key contributor to board effectiveness, ahead of the display and disclosure of formal transactions and decisions as markers of the board’s accountability. Deeper engagement as enabled by institutional visibility included governors’ input to strategic initiatives and ‘facework’ (Giddens, 1990) encounters with academic board and departmental staff. The research recommendations include strengthening internal university communications on the outcomes of board decisions and the publication of news features on the backgrounds, motivations and contributions of governors. A more embedded approach is proposed for senior management to enlist governors at the developmental stages of strategic projects, to provide independent expertise and assurance to these. Increased opportunities for co-visibility and engagement between governing bodies and academic boards or senates were also favoured outcomes of visibility. Beyond my professional practice, the recommendations are applicable to sector-wide guidance on governance policy and practice.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Active Authority or Latent Legitimacy? The perceived impact of the institutional visibility of the university governing body amongst staff on governance effectiveness
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473499
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