A self-selection mechanism for appointed external members of WA University Councils

Gerd E. Schröder-Turk*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    The governing boards of Australian public universities, known as Senates or Councils, are bodies with broad legislated powers. The composition of these bodies is crucial to ensuring sound strategic management of universities and maintaining academic standards. The key aspect of Council processes in Western Australian (WA) that this article seeks to highlight is the mechanism by which new appointed Council members are selected, and the dominant role that a committee composed predominantly of appointed members plays in this process, thereby creating a risk of a self-reinforcing selection bias. This is a noteworthy, but as yet unrecognised, effect of changes to State legislation in 2016. Changes to the legislated membership rules for key committees, particularly the Nominations Committee, mean the appointed members control the appointments of new appointed members. Such self-selection mechanisms carry the risk of reducing diversity amongst new appointments and consequently further increasing group homogeneity. Too high a degree of homogeneity, in turn, may negatively impact on the quality of Council decision making, particularly in relation to groupthink bias. In practice, membership of Councils in Western Australia is skewed to those without substantive experience in or affiliation with the higher education sector. This paper presents the conditions that may have enabled this shift in the expertise and competencies of University governing bodies and considers the consequences of this transition for the governance of universities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)34-44
    Number of pages11
    JournalAustralian Universities Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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