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Vice Chancellor and Chair Relationship – taking the University forward. . Mary Stuart Vice Chancellor University of Lincoln and Professor of Higher Education Studies. Connection between ‘relationship’ and ‘developing the University’ What might this connection be?

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Vice chancellor and chair relationship taking the university forward

Vice Chancellor and Chair Relationship – taking the University forward.

Mary Stuart

Vice Chancellor University of Lincoln and Professor of Higher Education Studies



  • For University’the governing body to be effective, there must be a constructive and challenging working relationship between the Chair and the Executive Head of the institution.

  • This relationship will depend on the personalities involved, but reports by the National Audit Office have emphasised the need for both sides to recognise that the roles of Chair and Executive Head are formally distinct.

  • The relationship should be mutually supportive, but must also incorporate the checks and balances imposed by the different roles each has within an institution’s constitution (CUC guidelines for governing bodies, 2009).


Cycle of relationship
Cycle of Relationship University’

Vice Chancellor appointed by Board of Governors - lead by Chair

Chair appointed by Board of Governors (with comments by Vice Chancellor)

On-going relationship evaluated

Working relationship and objectives developed


Chair appointment role of relationship
Chair Appointment – Role of relationship University’

  • Take account of personalities?

  • Establish expectations and nature of relationship (CUC guidelines – clarity)

  • Up-front discussion about governance vs executive responsibilities (clarity about Board!) (CUC guidelines – separation of responsibilities)

  • Clarity of contact

  • Clarity over sharing of information


Development of working relationship
Development of working relationship University’

  • Understanding of ‘soft’ elements – humour, hidden sub-text, trust, all those EI things!

  • Understanding of ‘hard’ elements – what the University is trying to achieve, where the VC sees the University, real negotiation about direction, strategy and so on in more informal (private) space (CUC checks and balances)


On going relationship evaluated
On-going relationship evaluated University’

  • Importance of NOT taking things for granted as relationship becomes more comfortable

  • Other governors’ perceptions (through review) of relationship

  • Frank, honest discussions

  • How successful is the institution being.....

  • ‘Nothing reinforces a professional relationship more than enjoying success with someone’.

  • Agreement on what success is at start, prioritising actions and objectives to get there, regular checking on success – serendipity and ‘catching a wave’...

  • Keep the excitement in the roles


Appointment of new vc
Appointment of new VC University’

  • Many Chairs are involved in moving from one VC to another

  • Crucial to explore with BoG (and Exec!) what is being looked for – but confident enough to make their own decisions based on knowledge of institution and HE

  • Crucial to explore these matters with candidates in 1-1s

  • Selection based on what institution needs not relationship but need to ensure relationship works


Cycle goes round again
Cycle goes round again University’

  • Clarity of agenda from day one...

  • Why did you appoint me?

  • To do what?


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