Presentation on Governance at UWA

Governance defined:

  • the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account
  • the framework of rules, relationships, systems and processes within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in corporations
  • a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and other stakeholders. Also provides the structure through which the objectives of the organisation are set, the means of attaining those objectives and of monitoring performance.


  • Governing Body – derivation of power
  •  Senate – composition and charter
  • Delegation – academic governance and management duties
  • Relationships – Senate, Academic Board and the Executive
  • Responsibilities of Members and Codes of Conduct
  • Features of the UWA governance system – strengths and weaknesses

Derivation of Power:

State Government Legislation – the University of Western Australia Act 1911 established the University and decrees
  • University to consist of a Senate, Convocation, staff and students
  • Senate to be the governing authority
  • University to be a Body Corporate
  • Senate is vested with legislative powers –to make, alter, repeal Statutes
  • Senate has the power and responsibility to appoint the Vice-Chancellor

Senate Charter

Section 13 of the Act gives Senate “the entire control and management…”

By a resolution in 2004 the Senate adopted a Charter

  • Exercises broad control over the University’s strategic direction and finances
  • Is the legislative authority of the University
  • Appoints and works in partnership with the Vice-Chancellor and monitors his/her performance

Senate Membership

  •  Three (3) Governor’s appointees
  • One (1) elected member of the academic staff
  • One (1) elected member of the non-academic staff
  •  The Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor (both ex-officio)
  •  The Chair of the Academic Board of the University
  •  Two (2) students of the University elected by students in accordance with Regulations
  •  Two (2) persons who are members of Convocation elected by Convocation
  •  Up to five (5) persons co-opted by the Senate
Senate Standing Committees
The Senate has formed various standing committees to advise it on its key activities in areas of corporate governance, each of which has its own constitution including a detailed role statement.
Audit and Risk Committee:
assists the Senate in overseeing the University’s financial reporting, its systems of internal control and risk management
Strategic Resources Committee:
Monitors the financial welfare of the University, campus planning and major physical developments, policy on staffing resources and within the limit of agreed delegations makes decisions or recommendations on University investments
Academic Governance
Under the authority of the University of Western Australia statute the Senate has established the Academic Board which is responsible to it for :
  • Assuring quality, integrity and the maintenance of standards in all academic activities
  • Overseeing and monitoring the development of all academic activities
  • Safeguarding the academic freedom of the University; and
  • Communicating with the academic community
The Board is required to report to Senate on its activities after each meeting and annually on its activities and its assessment of its own performance
Academic Board – Membership
  • 14 ex officio members (members of the Executive, Senior Leaders and Heads of Faculties)
  • 12 persons elected by and from the Heads of School
  • 39 Professors (Level E) of the University elected by the Academic Staff
  • 21 Level A-D Academic Staff of the University elected by the Academic Staff
  • 8 persons elected by and from the Professional Staff of the University
  • 4 students nominated by the Student Guild Council
Academic Council
The Academic Council is the Executive Committee of the Academic Board
Subject to certain conditions stipulated in the Academic Council Constitution, it may determine all matters delegated by the Academic Board and which by statute regulation or custom are the Board’s responsibility.
There are a number of other Committees and sub-committees of the Board each with an approved constitution including but not limited to
  • Academic Year Planning Committee
  • Academic Quality and Standards Committee
  • Education Committee
  • Research Committee
Faculty Governance
Senate has the authority to establish and dis-establish Faculties, Each Faculty offers courses approved by the Academic Board and the Faculty Board is responsible for the conduct of Faculty business including
  • Determining the administration of the Faculty’s courses
  • Providing advice to its Head of Faculty on issues relating to resources,
  • Making recommendations to the Academic Board through the Head of Faculty on any matters relating to the research or teaching of its courses and
  • Providing to other University committees or officers, through its Head of Faculty, advice on any matters referred to it for consideration.
Each Faculty has a governance document approved by the Academic Board which sets out the constitution and membership of the Faculty, its Committees and Boards.
The Act and the Statute of the University give the Senate authority to appoint a Vice-Chancellor, set performance measures and monitor his/her performance.
The functions of the Vice-Chancellor subject to the Act, Statutes and Regulations and any resolution of the Senate are:
  1.  Promoting the interests and furthering the development of the University;
  2.  The overall academic, administrative, financial and other business of the University; and
  3. Exercising a general supervision over the staff and students of the University.
In order to exercise these wide ranging authorities and responsibilities the VC may
in writing, delegate any function or any power or duty conferred or imposed upon the Vice-Chancellor
(except this power of delegation) to any member of the staff of the University or person or persons or
committee of persons”.
Governance Structure – Features
The most significant feature is that power and authority is widely distributed via a range of statutory and other formal delegations. The University’s governance structure is a mix of three interacting systems:
  • The Senate system through which the Senate and its Standing Committees exercise its strategic, custodial and legislative role
  • The Academic System through which the Academic Board and the Faculties regulate the academic activities of the University and
  • The Executive System through which the Vice-Chancellor as CEO exercises the delegated authority of Senate to manage the University with further delegations made to other Principal Officers
Governance – Management Relationship
An extract from the Voluntary Code of Best Practice in University Governance:
Good university governance requires above all a set of strong relationships based on
mutual respect, trust and honesty between the governing body and the Vice-
Chancellor and
his or her senior management team. While clearly defined boundaries between oversight
and management functions are important, nothing is more important in governing body/
management relations than the exercise of plain common sense on both sides

System – Strengths and Weaknesses
Power and authority is widely distributed via a range of statutory and other formal delegations

  • Strong ethos of consultative and participatory decision-making.
  • Size of the Senate and the Academic Board
  • Skills of Governance Committee Members
  • Adherence to Governance Committee Codes of Conduct
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Induction and Ongoing Professional Development
  • Performance Evaluations

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