Acknowledging that definitions of Governance are many and varied, within SCU we find it useful to define Governance as simply the framework within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in the University (based on ASX CGC 2007).
Good governance can offer a number of important benefits to a not for profit organisation such as SCU, including:
- "better organisational strategies and plans;
- improved operational effectiveness;
- more prudent regulatory compliance, financial and risk management;
- improved member and stakeholder engagement and communication flow; and
- increased likelihood and degree to which an organisation actually delivers on its purpose".
Source: Australian Institute of Company Directors
Governance at SCU
At SCU, the Council has supreme control of the University per the Southern Cross University Act 1993 (NSW). In order to facilitate efficient operations, the Council delegates control of most of the day to day operation of the University to employees, while reserving for itself oversight and judgement on the most consequential decisions.
Understanding who Council grants authority to and how much is the first step in understanding governance at SCU. Some committees and employees are granted more control than others. There is a general top-down hierarchy from Council through its Committees of Council, and Management, to University Operations, with the exception of the Academic Board. A list of the Committees of Council is included in the Governance Framework diagram.
A unique committee of council is the Academic Board, which is the principal academic decision-making body of the University. Its role is to advise the University Council and the Vice Chancellor on all matters related to the academic functioning of the University. It serves to provide a forum for decision-making by academic staff and students about the University's academic policies and programs. Unlike the other Committees of Council, strictly speaking Academic Board does not communicate with the operational arms of the University through the Vice Chancellor and Executive. However, a key relationship exists between the Academic Board and Vice Chancellor and Executive to enhance the academic aims of the University.
The Governance Framework diagram is only a guide; we cannot on one page encapsulate the complexity of the overlapping interrelationships between all the different factors which influence governance at SCU. But if you are new to SCU, or perhaps visiting, it is a good place to start while recognising the hierarchy depicted is not necessarily always one directional or straight up and down. And if you are new to the University sector, you might wish to particularly note that control of SCU's academic and other activities are formally separated within the enabling Act, via the establishment of an Academic Board.
One way to think about how Council controls the University's activities is to divide what Council does into 6 broad themes as we have done on the Governance Framework diagram. The three Blue arrows represent what Council supplies its staff and students in exchange for granting authority to them to act in its name. These are:
Objectives and Accountabilities
Authorities and Boundaries
The three Yellow arrows represent what Council demands in exchange for the authority it has granted. These are:
Outcomes and Assurances
Plans and Reports
Council can be said to be effectively exercising authority, to the extent each individual arrow is executed as demanded, and to the extent the Yellow arrows align with the Blue.
Council uses a number of 'tools' to ensure the blue and yellow arrows are executed as demanded, or in other words to enable and constrain how people may act on its behalf. It is the collection of all these tools together that we call the Governance Framework which is visually depicted in the Governance Framework diagram. For example, these tools include SCU's Strategic Plan, Delegations Register, Contracts, Codes of Conduct, MOU's, Rules and Policies, Council committee structure, appeals processes, audit, reporting and risk management processes and so on. The list of tools included on the Governance Framework diagram is not exhaustive, and we recognise many different work units across the University provide and utilise important governance tools and activities of their own.