Welcome to my blog.  I’m very glad you’re here.

In the autumn term I took up the role of elected staff governor on the University’s Board of Governors thanks to the many colleagues who voted for me.  As I said at the time, I was deeply touched about the level of colleagues voting – thanks again.

I’ve been trying to work out with the help of William Callaway who, as well as Academic Registrar, is the Secretary and Clerk to the Governors, what’s the best way to feed back to staff on what the role entails.  So the blog might be the answer, but I’d be glad to know your views – please let me know. This is my first blog.  The way I understand it is that they act as a kind of personal internet journal – but this means I’ve got a bit of catching up to do since my blog’s been a bit late in arriving as a result of some techy changeovers at the University.  And my apologies for this gap in time.

Early days – when does it stop feeling like ‘early days’? I’m still waiting to find out!

At the end September we (that is new governors) had an induction session with William and John Andrews (Chair of Governors) and this was really valuable.  It started to make clear that the fundamental role of the GB (Governing Body) is to be that of a ‘Critical Friend’.  The GB isn’t there to manage, or to ‘do’: there are skilled, responsible people there to do this.  But it’s to question, probe if necessary, kind of hold up a mirror to plans and recommendations made by the Uni’s Executive team.  And if that means running a risk of asking a naïve question, then fine!  I’d say ‘ask away’.  After all, even though anyone undertaking this role is anxious about not looking like a proper nit, there are only things we know and those we don’t.  So if I need to know an answer or have some information or guidance then that’s the bottom line.  When I voiced this anxiety to a member of Directorate at this early stage he kindly said “you’ve got to remember that you know a mass more than other lay Governors.  They’ve been appointed for other reasons but you already know and understand the University – so you’re miles ahead”.  That helped a lot with a quick and much needed wee boost of confidence.

The other bit that helps in this early, green stage is the training sessions offered.  Colleagues in William’s department help out with this and send us an information pack, and information about sessions organised by either the Leadership Foundation (http://www.lfhe.ac.uk/) or by Higher Education Wales (HEW).  I went to a session in November, in Cardiff, organised by HEW which was useful for new governors.  It was led by Andrew Wilkinson (Chair of ‘Chairs of Higher Education in Wales’ – CHEW) and Phil Gummett (Chief Executive, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales).  But, like all things of its kind, it’s at least as useful for meeting other people and exchanging points of view as it is for its primary purpose.

While we’re on the point of HEWs, CHEWs and HEFCWs…and a bag full of others like them, it’s worth just coming to a full stop here and, in Churchill fashion, remember that “broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all” (why didn’t Churchill mention acronyms?  That acerbic wit could have dealt with the wretches!).  In the short months since taking on this role I’ve started to feel enormous sympathy with the non-specialist, lay governors who, considering the language used in HE (oops, there’s another one!) they must think they’ve woken up in another country.  My point here is that I don’t really think that induction and training for new governors starts off at quite the right level.  For sure, governors each come with their own substantial basket of skills and experiences but they’re probably even less comfortable with their HEWs and CHEWs than I am!  And there’s just a chance that, as they’ve landed on foreign shores not speaking the language, new governors may quietly and discreetly contribute less until they are partially fluent (if ‘partially fluent ‘isn’t an oxymoron!).   I’ll do some thinking about what, specifically, I would have found useful but I don’t think it’s necessary for it to be another session out of the office, but perhaps it’s a resource of some sort – even a person.

I’ll post again soon – please feel free to comment; I’d like to hear from staff.