Statement on Board Responsibility for Institutional Governance

The enormous diversity among American colleges and universities is reflected in their disparate governance structures and functions. Although the culture and process of governance varies widely among institutions, the presence of lay citizen governing boards distinguishes American higher education from most of the rest of the world, where universities ultimately are dependencies of the state. America's public and private institutions also depend on government, but they historically have been accorded autonomy in carrying out their educational functions through the medium of independent governing boards, working collaboratively with presidents, senior administrators, and faculty leaders. In the case of public institutions, these boards usually are appointed by governors (and less frequently elected); in the case of private institution, these boards are generally self-perpetuating (selected by current board members).

The AGB Statement on Board Responsibility for Institutional Governance (pdf or html) encourages all governing boards and presidents to examine the clarity, coherence, and appropriateness of their institutions' governance structures, policies, and practices, and recommends a number of principles of good practice related to institutional governance.  Moreover, it reflects a governing board perspective, taking into consideration the many changes that have occurred in American higher education during the four decades since the American Association of University Professors promulgated its Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities (1966), a document that AGB commended to its members. Read General Secretary of the AAUP Gary Rhoades' response to this current AGB statement here.

AGB's original Statement on Institutional Governance was inspired by the work of the Commission on the Academic Presidency, whose report and recommendations AGB published in 1996. After gathering insights from college and university chief executives, trustees, administrators, and faculty from across higher education and considering hundreds of public comments in response to a draft of the statement, the AGB Board of Directors approved it in November 1998.  Much has happened in the succeeding decade to suggest the need for a revision of the original statement. This new statement takes the changing expectations of governing boards into account. You can read the press release here. AGB members and Trusteeship subscribers will receive a print copy in the March/April 2010 issue of the magazine.

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