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.
The Report of the Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Committees at the University of Western Australia laid considerable stress on the need to provide appropriate training to all those involved in committee work. It recognised that "effective committee work involves considerable skill" and that the skills of chairs, members and executive officers could be significantly enhanced through training programmes.
This Guide is one part of the University's ongoing effort to provide training programmes to help make all its committees as efficient and effective as possible.
The Guide is aimed at a very broad audience – anyone who is involved in any way in committee work of any kind at all, at any level of the University, whether as chair, member or executive officer. If you look below at the kinds of committees it covers, you will see that you are almost certainly part of the target audience, covering all facets of the committee system including those attending local meetings such as staff meetings.
Note: The term "Executive Officer" is used for convenience throughout the Guide for any member of staff who undertakes the administrative and executive work for a committee and its chair. Some such staff are still referred to as committee "secretaries". However, the term "Executive Officer" has been widely adopted in the University, as it is seen to be a more modern title which more accurately reflects the real nature of the role and its importance to the effectiveness of any committee.
The Guide has been designed so that readers can easily select the sections which are most relevant to their particular role/s in committee work.
The term "committee" is used throughout the Guide for convenience, but is intended to cover the full range of decision-making bodies in the University. A committee, for the purposes of the Guide is any group which meets to consider and make recommendations or decisions on any aspect of the University's business.
The following all fall into that category, despite being very different in type:
Because the basic principles applying to the effective operation of all committees are identical, many sections of the Guide should be of help to any chair, member or executive officer of any committee. The number of sections of the Guide that will be of help to you will however be dependent on a range of factors, including the nature of the committee and the level of committee experience you already have.
The Guide may at first glance appear to be aimed primarily at the more formal end of the committee system in the University. This is the inevitable outcome of producing a document which has to be as comprehensive as possible in order to meet the needs of the full range of its broad target audience. It must include everything that will be needed by those involved with the most formal committees in the University.
If you're working with a committee in the formal Senate/Academic Board/Faculty system, almost everything in the Guide will be relevant to the work of your committee. If you're working with a committee outside that system, you'll still find that a great deal of the Guide is (or should be!) relevant to your committee. You can therefore read the sections most relevant to your role (and any others that interest you) and you should be able to determine fairly easily the few elements that might not apply to your committee/s. The sub-headings (in italics) used throughout all sections of the Guide are intended to help you skim through to find the sections of most interest to you.
The main differences between the operation of committees in the formal Senate/ Board/Faculty system and of other committees relates to the levels of formality appropriate to meetings, and perhaps to the amount of material needed in agendas to provide the full background necessary for an informed discussion. (Committees further up the hierarchy will tend to have more documentation, as they often receive material from committees below them in the structure.)
If there are many other differences in particular committees, those involved in the committees concerned should ask themselves whether the differences are justified. Could the committees operate more effectively if they adopted more of the approaches suggested in the Guide?
The Guide takes account throughout of the University's three-part Principles for the Operation of Committees, Rules for the Operation of Committees and University Committee Members' Code of Conduct, and refers readers to relevant principles when appropriate.