Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-17, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 3 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2017.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Governance in higher education refers to the way in which institutions are organised and operate internally and their relationships with external entities with a view to securing the objectives of higher education as a realm of enquiry and critique.

explanatory context

Most attempts to formulate the concept of governance in higher education or set out the principles of governance combine four things: the internal working of the higher education institution; its relationships with external bodies including government; the maintenance of academic freedom and the critical role of higher education; and the need to maintain and reinforce public trust in institutions.

analytical review

Marginson and Considine, (2000) define university governance as:

encompass internal relationship, external relationship and the intersection between both.

Mayntz (1993, p. 11) defines governance (generically) as:

the social coordination of collective action by systems of norms and order


Kohler (2005) proposed an approximate definition of (good) higher education governance as:

that institutional set-up and those processes at strategic level of both higher education and research institutions and of national and international systems which are concerned with the identification, validation, and realisation of those prerequisites and consequences and of that culture and those steering devices which pertain to institutional autonomy and individual freedom in their contexts with public responsibility of the institution to be governed, and which must be described and developed for the sake of maintaining and enhancing benefits with regard to the well-being of individuals and society, traditional academic values and objectives, quality and quality assurance, institutional positioning, effectiveness and efficiency of mass higher education and advanced research in democratic societies based on expert competence, on inclusion and participation, on the rule of law, on the freedom of ethically responsible individuals, and on mutual respect and—to add the notion of “good” governance to the definition of governance of higher education as such—serves these objectives best and at least to an optimum of compromise between conflicting aims and devices.

Veiga et al. (2013) state:

In a broad sense, governance refers to the political process of setting goals and the actions taken for their achievement. In a narrower sense the term refers to the increasing fragmentation of public decision making and to the degree of interdependence between state and non-state actors of civil society. Governance is about political management of rule systems, both formal and informal, that drive values and norms affecting actors and constellations of actors’ behaviours and attitudes

Middlehurst (2013, p. 2) in an article reviewing changes in internal governance in UK higher education provides a note on terminology:

‘Governance’ in higher education has a variety of meanings and applications as well as different theoretical and philosophical underpinnings (Llewellyn 2009; Schofield, 2009). In practice, governance today is messy and contested territory where the boundaries between levels are blurred and where power and authority between different actors in the system are in flux. This is not only the case in the different jurisdictions of the UK but also in different parts of the world through higher education reforms and ‘modernisation’ agendas of governments (Fielden, 2008 [no reference provided]; Locke et al., 2011; Middlehurst and Teixeira, 2012) as well as wider environmental conditions. Hence, definitions of governance need to be treated with caution as they are open to different interpretations in different contexts. Nonetheless, they usually imply the structure and process for decision-making at the institutional or system level. Gallagher’s description covers the elements that are relevant to the discussion in this paper: ‘Governance is the structure of relationships that bring about organisational coherence, authorise policies, plans and decisions, and account for their probity, responsiveness and cost-effectiveness. Leadership is seeing opportunities and setting strategic directions, and investing in and drawing on people’s capabilities to develop organisational purposes and values. Management is achieving intended outcomes through the allocation of responsibilities and resources, and monitoring their efficiency and effectiveness. Administration is the implementation of authorised procedures and application of systems to achieve agreed results’ (Gallagher, 2001, quoted in Middlehurst & Teixeira, 2012, p. 529).

As Marginson and Considine (2000) suggest, governance is about determining what is important and what counts through defining institutional goals (strategy), purposes (mission) and values. It is also concerned with inputs (physical, human and financial), processes (ways of operating and organising), outputs and outcomes (various aspects of institutional performance and contributions to wider social and economic goals). Discussions of governance also refer to those involved in its operations: through setting policy directions and overseeing implementation processes, through leading and managing the institution within and across different roles, and those who contribute in other ways to decision-making processes and have influence upon direction and outcomes including staff, students and external constituencies (Keller, 2001). While recognising that internal governance is a multi-layered concept, in this paper the term will be used primarily to embrace internal management structures, decision-making arrangements and leadership roles and the relationships between these functions and the governing boards of institutions.

Stensaker and Vabø (2013) answer the question 'What is shared governance?' thus:

The concept of governance is in general usually referred to as a form of steering beyond state influence, in which societal influence is secured through various networks or other steering arrangements (Treib et al., 2007, p. 3). Within higher education, the concept of shared governance has historically had another meaning hinting at the influence and representation of academic staff in various decision-making processes. Still, while the concept of shared governance may sound self-evident in higher education, it is not easy to define this concept (Leach, 2008, p. 13). Part of the problem is related to the difficulties of linking shared governance to specific governance arrangements. As demonstrated by various studies, the internal governance of universities is highly diversified (Martin and Etzkowitz, 2001; Amaral et al., 2003), dependent on national and institutional traditions and history (Clark, 1972, 1983) and to a various extent affected by national and global reform trends (Huisman, 2009; de Boer et al., 2010; Bonaccorsi et al., 2010). What these studies show is that while shared governance has historically been associated with academics being involved in decisionmaking, there are differences both as to how they are involved and the range of actors involved in the decision sharing. Concerning the differences in how academics are involved, Minor (2003, p. 962) distinguishes between three perspectives:

• academics involved in all decision-making issues;
• academics involved in decision-making on academic matters;
• academics should not have a major influence in decision-making.
Within these three perspectives, one could also differentiate between the extent to which academic involvement is formally secured through legislation, or whether their involvement is more dependent on traditions, culture and informal arrangements....

The useful but lengthy meandering entry on higher education governance on Wikipedia (as of 6 June 2009) includes the statements:

Governance in higher education refers to the means by which higher educational (also tertiary or postsecondary) institutions are formally organized and managed….

Simply, university governance is the way in which universities are operated….

The concept of governance for postsecondary education predominantly refers to the internal structure, organization and management of autonomous institutions. The organization of internal governance is generally composed of a governing board (board of regents, board of directors), the university president (executive head, CEO) with a team of administrative chancellors and staff, faculty senates, academic deans, department chairs, and usually some form of organization for student representation….

Kezar and Eckel (2004: 371–398) suggest governance is a multi-level concept including several different bodies and processes with different decision-making functions. In this way, governance is sometimes defined at difference [ sic , should be ‘as different'?]   to the internal management of institutions….

Due to the influences of public sector reforms, several authors (Kezar and Eckel 2004; Lapworth 2004; Middlehurst 2004) point out that next to the concept of shared and participative governance a new form of governance has emerged, i.e. the notion of corporate governance of institutions that has increasingly become a more dominant approach to tertiary management. According to Lapworth (2004: 299–314), the rise of the notion of corporate governance and the decline of the shared or consensual governance can be seen to be a result of the decline in academic participation, growing tendency towards managerialism and the new environment where the universities are operating.

Arkansas State University (undated) state:

Academic governance is the process by which the faculty participates in and shapes decisions and courses of action in areas of faculty primacy.

The sine qua non of a university is the discovery of knowledge and the transmission of that knowledge along with the skills to make use of that knowledge to its students. The faculty of the university occupies the unique role of possessing the expertise to fulfill the responsibilities of research, teaching, and service. Those functions of governance that are essential components of fulfilling these roles are recognized as areas of faculty primacy.

associated issues

related areas

See also



Amaral, A., Meek, L. and Larsen, I. M., 2003, The Higher Education Managerial Revolution? Dordrecht: Kluwer academic press.

Arkansas State University (undated) University Governance avalable at accessed 7 April 2011, not available 31 August 2012.

Bonaccorsi, A., Daraio, C. and Geuna, A., 2010, 'Universities in the new knowledge landscape: tensions, challenges, change—an introduction', Minerva, 48 (1), pp. 1–4.

Clark, B. R., 1972, 'The organizational saga in higher education',Administrative Science Quarterly, 17, pp. 178–184.

Clark, B. R., 1983, The Higher Education System. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

de Boer, H., Jongbloed, B., Enders, J. and File, J., 2010, Progress in Higher Education Reform across Europe. Governance Reform. Brussels: CHEPS/INCHER/NIFU STEP.

Huisman, J. (Ed.), 2009, International Perspectives on the Governance of Higher Education. Alternative Frameworks for Coordination. New York: Routledge.

Keller, G., 2001, 'Governance: the Remarkable Ambiguity', in Altbach, P. Gumport, P. and Johnstone, B. (Eds.), In Defense of American Higher Education. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Press, pp. 304–22.

Kezar, A., Eckel, P. D. 2004, 'Meeting today's governance challenges', Journal of Higher Education , 75(4), pp. 371–98.

Kohler, J., 2005, ‘Introduction to the Conference: purpose, programme, and expectations' presentation at the conference on Higher Education Governance Between Democratic Culture, Academic Aspirations And Market Forces [Gouvernance de l'enseignement supérieur entre culture démocratique, aspirations académiques et forces du marché ] , Strasbourg, 22–23 September 2005.

Lapworth, S., 2004, ‘Arresting decline in shared governance: towards a flexible model for academic participation', Higher Education Quarterly , 58(4) pp. 299–314.

Leach, W. D., 2008, Shared Governance in Higher Education: Structural and Cultural Responses to A Changing National Climate, Sacramento: California State University, Center for Collaborative Policy.

Llewellyn, D., 2009, The Role and Influence of the Secretary in UK Higher Education Governing Bodies. London: Leadership Foundation.

Locke, W., Cummings, W. and Fisher, D. (Eds.), 2011, Changing Governance and Management in Higher Education: the Perspectives of the Academy. London: Springer.

Marginson, S. and Considine, M., 2000,The Enterprise University. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, B. and Etzkowitz, H., 2001, 'The origin and evolution of the university species', Journal for Science and Technology Studies, 13 (1), pp. 9–34.

Mayntz, R., 1993, 'Governing failures and the problems of governability: some comments on a theoretical paradigm', in Kooiman, J. (Ed.). Modern Governance, London: Sage.

Middlehurst, R. 2004, ‘Changing internal governance: a discussion of leadership roles and management structures in UK universities', Higher Education Quarterly , 58(4), pp. 258–79.

Middlehurst, R. 2013, ‘Changing internal governance: are leadership roles and management structures in United Kingdom universities fit for the future?', Higher Education Quarterly , forthcoming.

Middlehurst, R. and Teixeira, P., 2012, 'Governance within the EHEA: Dynamic Trends, Common Challenges, and National Particularities', in Curaj, A., Scott, P., Vlasceanu, L. and Wilson, L. (Eds.), European Higher Education at the Crossroads: Between the Bologna Process and National Reforms, Part 2: Governance, Financing, Mission Diversification and Futures of Higher Education. London: Springer, pp. 527–51.

Minor, J. T., 2003, 'Assessing the Senate: critical issues considered',American Behavioral Scientist, 46 (7), pp. 960–977.

Schofield, A., 2009, What Is an Effective and High Performing Govening Body in UK Higher Education? London: Leadership Foundation.

Stensaker, B. and Vabø, A., 2013, 'Re-inventing shared governance: implications for organisational culture and institutional leadership', Higher Education Quarterly, forthcoming.

Treib, O., Bähr, H. and Falkner, G., 2007, 'Modes of governance: towards a conceptual clarification', Journal of European Public Policy, 14, pp. 1–20.

Wikipedia, 2009, Governance in higher education, first accessed 6 June 2009. This page last modified 15 April 2016, so there may be changes since the quotes above.

Veiga, A., Magalhães, A., Amaral, A., Sousa, S. and Ribeiro, F., 2013, 'Governance of governance in higher education: practices and lessons drawn from the Portuguese case', Higher Education Quarterly, forthcoming

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