Bath resignation shines light on university governance

Higher education institutions in the United Kingdom are set to face tough questions about their governance after the resignation of the University of Bath’s vice-chancellor shone a light on lax rules that enable university leaders to vote on their own pay, writes Robert Wright for the Financial Times.

The issue of potentially poor governance has emerged as a result of the outcry over how Dame Glynis Breakwell was paid £468,000 (US$630,000) a year at Bath. She stepped down last week after an unusually damning report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England said the university’s handling of her pay had harmed its reputation. The report criticised Dame Glynis for voting on her own pay at a meeting of Bath’s decision-making court in February.

Universities’ governance has in many cases failed to keep pace with the sector’s growing scale and sophistication. Since becoming vice-chancellor at Bath in 2001, Dame Glynis has overseen a tripling in the number of students, to 17,300. The university has an annual turnover of £242 million. But until this year the court at Bath, which was founded in 1966, had lacked standing orders on issues such as conflicts of interest.
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