AGB Releases Reports on Composition of Independent and Public Governing Boards

Washington, D.C., November 29: The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has released two reports on the composition, policies, and selected practices of college and university governing boards. The reports, “2010 Policies, Practices and Composition of Governing Boards of Independent Colleges and Universities,” and “2010 Policies, Practices and Composition of Governing Boards of Public Colleges, Universities, and Systems,” update the previous editions published in 2004.

Based on a 2010 survey completed by more than 700 universities, colleges, and systems, these one-of-a-kind reports describe current boards, board members, committees, and policies. Each report includes a profile of board committee structures, highlights of recent changes, and demographic information on trustees (age, ethnicity, gender, and more).

The reports provide trustees, presidents, staff, and scholars with a basis for comparing the attributes of their own institutions’ boards with those of other institutions. Data are reported by type of institution (associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral and research, and specialized).

Major findings include:

  • In 2010, 12.5 percent of independent board members were racial and ethnic minorities, compared to 11.9 percent in 2004; 23.1 percent of public board members were minorities, compared to 21.3 percent in 2004.
  • Men outnumbered women by more than two to one on both independent boards (69.8 percent to 30.2 percent) and public boards (71.6 percent to 28.4 percent).
  • Most trustees (69 percent) of both independent and public boards were 50-69 years old.
  • 8.5 percent of independent boards included at least one student as a voting member; 50.3 percent of public boards included a voting student member.
  • The professional background of more than half (53 percent) of trustees of independent colleges and universities in 2010 was business. For public colleges and universities, that figure was slightly lower, 49.4 percent.
  • Most independent institutions, 76.4 percent, included the chief executive as a member of the board, while most public institutions—72.5 percent—did not.

“The make-up of boards and how they are structured to do their work has a direct bearing on policy, agendas, and appropriate board engagement, making board composition an issue of critical significance in the conduct of the business of higher education,” said Merrill Schwartz, AGB Director of Research and author of the report. “This survey of college, university, and system boards is the most comprehensive source of data on the typical size of boards, their gender and racial composition, financial contributions of board members, whether the president is a member, term limits, and so many other benchmarks. For the most part, the study should be regarded as reporting common practices, without judgment, but some items report best practices, such as a separate audit committee or conflict of interest statements. Boards can use the survey to examine their own practices and see where they may need to make changes.”

The survey and resulting reports were supported by the TIAA-CREF Institute, an important partner to the higher education community on research and initiatives to deepen understanding of issues critical to the future vitality of the academy.

"2010 Policies, Practices, and Composition of Governing Boards of Colleges or Universities" [Independent or Public] is available for purchase through AGB’s website, For information about the TIAA-CREF Institute, please visit

For 90 years, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has had one mission: to strengthen and protect this country’s unique form of institutional governance through its research, services, and advocacy. Serving more than 1,200 member boards and 35,000 individuals, AGB is the only national organization providing university and college presidents, board chairs, trustees, and board professionals of both public and private institutions with resources that enhance their effectiveness. In accordance with its mission, AGB has developed programs and services that strengthen the partnership between the president and governing board; provide guidance to regents and trustees; identify issues that affect tomorrow’s decision making; and foster cooperation among all constituencies in higher education.

November 29, 2010