Governance arrangements

How to set up good governance and accountability arrangements


Table of contents

What you find on this page

1. Overview

Why governance is important

2. Top tips

Some tips to get you started

3. Inspire me!

Take a look at UK-CEH’s governance arrangements

4. Useful resources

Some exemplar terms of reference for PE committees


Experience has shown that thoughtful governance plays an essential part in supporting effective culture change.  By ‘governance’, we mean the formal and informal processes that are in place to ensure responsibility and accountability are well managed. Good governance can help ensure you have the right level of senior support and backing for your work. It can also allow you to escalate issues and challenges, and ensure these are addressed.

Top tips

Every university’s governance structures are different, so it is important to spend time working out what will work best in your context. Involve people early on in your planning and build a good understanding of how decisions are made at your institution.

There are two aspects to governance you may want to think about.

  • The governance of the work you are responsible for
  • How your work contributes to the governance of the institution

We offer some top tips about both aspects below.

 Steering Groups

Many universities have established Public Engagement Steering Groups, typically chaired by the PVC Research or PVC Engagement. Typically, membership will include the Head of Public Engagement, senior academic leads from different faculties, and senior professional staff from related service areas. Increasingly, these groups will also involve representatives from partner organisations. They will meet twice or three times a year. Terms of reference typically include the following:

  • Providing a forum for greater connectivity between the strands of public engagement.
  • Maintaining oversight of the various strands of public engagement activity within the University.
  • Giving strategic direction and clarity with regard to participation in large/high profile engagement events.
  • Sharing knowledge and good practice ideas.
  • Promoting awareness of activity and building consensus cross the University to address institutional challenges.
  • Reviewing applications for and allocating competitive funding for relevant research.
  • Advising on measures of success, which can inform monitoring, evaluation, learning and reporting.
  • Reviewing plans developed by the Public Engagement Team, progress in implementation, and making recommendations accordingly.
  • Supporting and, where appropriate, leading efforts to achieve financial sustainability for the public engagement activities of the University.
  • Making an annual report to University Executive.

 Wider governance arrangements

It is also important to ensure that your work is connected into other governance structures within your institution; for instance through regular reporting to key committees (such as the research committee). Often, reporting requires a committee to simply note that something has happened, but you may want permission from a committee if you want to establish or change something.

  • Find out which committees you need to report to, when they sit, and when they need papers submitted by.
  • Liaise with the committee secretary to secure this information, and to see report templates and examples of papers that others have submitted. They will also help you with guidance on how long your report should be and if there are any specific actions the committee needs to undertake.
  • Make sure that you have a ‘champion’ who is a member of the committee, with whom you have shared your paper in advance, and discussed tactics for how it will be presented.

You should consider opportunities to periodically bring your work to the attention of the university’s governing board (who are likely to take a strong interest, given that most members are community representatives) and the university’s executive team. This helps to ensure a wider awareness of what you are doing, and to secure involvement from a wider group of senior influencers in the institution.

Inspire me!

Useful resources