Date of this Version
Governance and Trusteeship in Higher Education
governance, trustees, decision making, group processes, organizational theory
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Governing boards have a history of underperformance. Yet, most attempted strategies address the recognized problems of inexperienced trustees, infrequent meetings, and trustees’ lack of understanding of higher education. They include steps such as clarifying board roles and responsibilities, better orientations, more information, and restructuring the board. Yet, these commonly advocated strategies yield few consistent results. This paper looks beyond the typical problems and solutions for underlying causes that might make governance difficult. It synthesizes literature from psychology, business, behavioral economics, group behavior, and related areas to develop propositions that help explain board behavior (or misbehavior) to suggest deeper causes of board misbehavior via a set of propositions. These propositions focus on the nature of high-powered groups, overconfidence, group information bias and group processes, all of which constrain board effectiveness. The paper concludes with a series of recommendations for practitioners and for researchers to further address what look like perennial governance problems.
This paper was written as part of a project on university autonomy and governance reform funded by Nazabayev University (Kazakhstan).
Eckel, P.D. (2019). Why Governing is So Difficult: A Synthesis of the (Other) Literature. Philadelphia, PA: Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (Penn AHEAD), University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
Date Posted: 11 March 2019