Management and Governance Survey Results

Last year, the Council for the Defence of British Universities circulated a survey amongst its members regarding the management and governance arrangements at their higher education institutions. After two call outs, the survey amassed 81 responses.  This blog details the results of the survey and features some notable responses to the open answer sections.

Following last year’s survey about governance, whose results are summarised below, CDBU plans to run an event focused on the topic later this year in central London.

If you are interested in such an event, please fill out this form or contact Ron Barnett, the event coordinator, for more information: 

When asked, ‘Are you currently retired or working?’, 81.5% of respondents are currently working, and 18.5% are retired.

When asked, ‘How many years have you been working in the Higher Education sector?’, 35.8% said they had been working in the HE sector for 30+ years, another 35.8% said 21-30 years, 25.9% said 11-20, and the remaining 2.5% said 1-10 years.


When asked if their university has academic representation on its council or governing body, an overwhelming 86.4% said yes. 

However, when asked if there are any elected posts in the management of their universities, 63% said no.  

Similarly, 79% of respondents said they could not remember a time when an office such as Dean of the Faculty was contested by an election.  

Those who  could recall when an office such as Dean of the Faculty was contested by an election were asked to explain in further detail what the arrangements were. Below are some of the answers provided which shines a particular light on attitudes towards management and governance arrangements at universities: 

  • “Our Deans have not been elected during my time here, but they used to be drawn from the ranks, and return to the ranks. Now they are executive positions, appointed via headhunter searches. They are almost always white men.”
  • “We don’t have ‘elections’ for any ‘management’ posts – from Head of subject up they are all appointed by a panel of ‘managers’ that never include people whom the Head/Director/Deputy VC will manage. Some departments have taken it upon themselves to ‘elect’ in the first instance the single person who then puts themselves forward for such a position.”
  • “The very idea seems fantastical. We are run by a centralised managerial dictatorship.”
  • “This survey is important. And it is important to tell students and staff that the UK is an anomaly at continental level in the lack of democratic governance of university institutions.”