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University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series

Faculty of Law, UNSW
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Trakman, Leon --- "Modelling University Governance" [2008] UNSWLRS 19

Last Updated: 5 September 2008

Modelling University Governance
Leon Trakman

This paper will shortly be available for download.


This paper appeared in Higher Education Quarterly, Volume 62, Nos. 1/2, January/April 2008, pp 63–83.


Twentieth century governance models used in public universities are subject to increasing doubt across the English-speaking world. Governments question if public universities are being efficiently governed; if their boards of trustees are adequately fulfilling their trust obligations towards multiple stakeholders; and if collegial models of governance are working in increasingly complex educational environments. With declining public funding for tertiary education, growing international competition among institutions of higher learning in our information age and worrisome evidence of dysfunctional governance, critics question if established governance structures are able to meet these and other challenges. Some insist that members of faculty are most suited to govern public universities because they appreciate the vision and mission of the university. Others demand that boards of governors be skilled in financial matters and drawn primarily from corporate life. Yet others call for governance based on trust and confidence between those who govern and those who are governed. The article evaluates competing trends in models of university governance in the United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth and the United States. Arguing against a one-size-fits-all model, it sets out specific factors to consider in reforming governance models to meet the demands of our times.

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