College boards: Innovation shouldn’t stop at governance

Association releases 7 steps to get college and university boards up to innovation speed

board-governance-innovation College and university boards are hindering institutional progress in innovative practices thanks to an inward-looking mindset from 50 years ago, says a brief released today by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB).

The report from the National Commission on College and University Board Governance says that in the current higher education environment, the structure of governance should not be “an additional risk factor for the sector. Yet, too often it is.”

Signs of pressure on governance can be seen in many instances today, says the report, such as: polarized boards, rapid presidential turnover, faculty votes of non-confidence, and heightened scrutiny from accreditors. This in turn leads to the “erosion of public trust in the ability of institutions to make choices that contribute to the public well-being.”

The board, however, is still greatly needed (and must run efficiently) because their fiduciary role requires them to focus on strategic long-term issues and the intersection of internal and public interests—a job presidents and faculty will not be able to do on their own, says the report.

“Board members have responsibilities they must meet more effectively. Their role must be redefined so that they better ensure their institutions are contributing to society,” said Richard Legon, AGB president, in a statement. “The future of our country depends on the success of higher education. Trustee leadership for improved performance has never been more important, yet too often governance fails to meet expectations.”

To move focus outward and invest in innovative practices, the report details seven recommendations for boards in support of the role only they can play in improving institutional value through more effective governance.

(Next page: 7 recommendations)