2020 AGB Board Policies, Practices, and Composition Survey Is Now Open

By Lesley McBain November 4, 2020 May 12th, 2021 Blog Post

What are the average governing board sizes at private independent institutions, public institutions and systems, and institutionally related foundations? How are women and people of color represented on higher education governing boards? What is the average length of a single term for board members in different sectors of higher education? What are the most common occupations of higher education governing board members? Do these occupations differ between the private and public sectors of higher education? How are students and faculty members represented on institutional governing boards, and does this differ by sector?

These questions and others are often asked by both AGB members and external stakeholders. In order to answer them, AGB conducts its signature Board Policies, Practices, and Composition Survey every five years. The survey is the only one of its type. It serves as the basis of a comprehensive report as well as provides data in support of AGB member programming and longitudinal research on board policies, practices, and composition. The 2020 iteration has new questions on diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and board membership diversification efforts.

The 2020 AGB Board Policies, Practices, and Composition Survey is now open and AGB requests participation from both AGB members and nonmembers. The more data AGB can gather on governing boards’ crucial work, the better it can educate the wider higher education community as well as support its members in their duties. The widespread changes in higher education since the 2016 survey cycle—not to mention since March 2020—add greater urgency to collecting as much current data on board policies, practices, and composition as possible.

A personalized survey link was sent via email invitation to institutional, system, and foundation presidents and CEOs in mid-October 2020. Responses will be accepted through at least November 20, 2020. Results will be released in spring 2021.

Questions or requests for the survey invitation can be directed to AGB Research at research@agb.org.

(In 2016, private independent boards averaged 29 members, public boards averaged 12 members, and foundation boards averaged 31 members. Women made up approximately 32 percent of independent institutions and public institutions and 25 percent of foundation boards. Minority representation at non-minority-serving institution boards was 17 percent in the public sector and 11 percent in the independent sector, and 9 percent of foundation boards. The average length of a single term for public institution board members was 5.8 years versus 3.6 years at independent institutions and 3.4 years at institutionally related foundations. The most common current/past occupations reported for both employed and retired board members was “business” [39.6 percent of public boards and 44.8 percent of independent boards]. This occupation has been predominant for both sectors since 1985. Almost 45 percent of public boards include a student voting member, in comparison to only 9.7 percent of independent boards. Faculty voting representation is less dissimilar between the sectors than is student voting representation; 15.4 percent of independent boards include a faculty voting member, compared with 10.9 percent of independent boards.)


Lesley McBain, PhD, is the director of research for AGB.

Opinions expressed in AGB blogs are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the institutions that employ them or of AGB.

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