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Pressure mounting against changes to University Governance

Wednesday 9 October

Pressure mounting against changes to University Governance

Stuart McCutcheon, the Vice-Chancellor of New Zealand's largest public tertiary education institution, the University of Auckland, is against changes to University Governance and may be making that opposition known more publicly before submissions close on 12 November.

An internal memo raises concerns that the proposed changes announced last week are a diversion from the real issue which is that New Zealand universities are forced by government policy to operate with the lowest income per student in the developed world.

Elsewhere within the University, Business School academics are warning that a relationship between board size and the success of companies is tenuous at best, which runs counter to the Minister's claims that smaller Councils would make universities more nimble in addressing challenges.

Many of the world’s top universities have very large governing bodies – MIT has 72, Stanford 33, Harvard 32, Oxford 25 and Cambridge 23. And if you look at a sample of 50 top universities, size of their governing body explains only 1% of the variation in their world rankings.

One further statement from within the University has been circulated and has the support of University of Auckland supporters.

It states: "The argument that boards should be appointed for expertise rather than representation may also have some appeal in business, although the rise in influence of shareholder associations suggests there is something in the proposition that those who own a company should have a stake in its governance. However, universities are not owned by shareholders and they do not have the objective of maximising shareholder value. Rather, they are held in trust for the benefit of a wide variety of stakeholder groups, and good Councils have been adept at using co-opted places to fill any gaps that representative appointments may have in their governance capability".

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