Governance

Background to the guide to effective committee meetings

Further information

  • Setting up a committee
  • Preparing and running a meeting

Committees have always played a key role in the University's governance, as would be expected in an organisation which attaches great value to maintaining a strongly participative culture.

  1. The need for change in the use and operation of committees
  2. The Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Committees in the University of Western Australia
  3. Affirmation of the essential role of committees in the modern University
  4. Recognition of the need to make the committee system efficient and effective
  5. Maintaining collegiality
  6. Adoption of the "Principles for the Operation of Committees"

The need for change in the use and operation of committees

By and large, its committees have served UWA very well. However, by the start of the century, following a period of extraordinary and far-reaching change in the higher education sector, the University's committee system had burgeoned, and the resultant stresses on staff, both academic and administrative, were becoming intolerable.

It was clear that there was an urgent need for a revised approach to the use and operation of committees, which would better suit the University in the 21st century. It was imperative to make the committee system as streamlined and effective as possible.

Back to top 

The review of the efficiency and effectiveness of committees in the University of Western Australia

In 2002, the then Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chair of the Academic Board established a working party to review the efficiency and effectiveness of committees in the University. Briefly summarised, the tasks of the Working Party were to:

  • review in detail the committee system employed by the Vice Chancellery and Academic Board
  • develop general principles for use throughout the University's committee system
  • work with staff in key roles to assist them to develop changes to the University's committee system consistent with the general principles developed
  • recommend ways of encouraging a wide range of members of the University to participate in the committee system.

Affirmation of the essential role of committees in the modern university

In its Report, the Working Party affirmed the value of a committee system in achieving the University's goals. It recognised that committees remain an essential part of a shared governance system within the modern University's community.

It was very clear from the many interviews which members of the Working Party conducted in the course of the Review that the University community continued to place significant value on the committee system as a key means of participating in University decision-making. Some of the Report's statements about the perceived value of committees included the following:

  • The Committee system "has facilitated the participative culture of the institution."
  • The Committee system captures " the diverse inputs and perspectives of a wide range of men and women."
  • "Universities are unusually placed in the expertise available to them, and committees provide a way of drawing on that expertise and ensuring that decisions are taken by those,or representatives of those, who have to implement the decisions."
  • "Committee work often provides an opportunity for staff and students to work outside their normal points of reference and to develop new skills as well as a greater understanding of the University as a whole."

Recognition of the need to make the committee system efficient and effective

While noting the community's clear support for the place of the committee system in the University's shared governance system, the Working Party also reported that there was broad acceptance of the urgent need to reduce the time consumed by committee work, mainly through making all University committees as efficient and effective as possible.

Back to top 

Maintaining collegiality

The Report emphasised the University's commitment to maintaining collegiality as fundamental to University governance. It notes that a "collegial system is one which is transparent, consultative and allows staff to contribute to decision-making, whilst also capturing the diverse inputs and perspectives of a wide range of men and women."

The Report also notes that individual managers at all levels can be collegial in their decision-making "through being open to the views of staff and students and accepting debates on various issues."

Back to top 

Adoption of the "Principles for the operation of Committees"

The Review's recommendations led to a number of changes to the Vice Chancellery and Academic Board committee systems, and also resulted in the adoption of the following key documents:

  1. Principles for the Operation of Committees
  2. Rules for the Operation of Committees 
  3. University Committee Members' Code of Conduct

The Principles apply to the operation of all University committees and are intended to enhance efficiency and effectiveness throughout the University's committee system.

Back to top