The University provides a comparison between the University's governance arrangements and those set out in the CUC’s Higher Education Code of Governance.
To understand the reasons for the existing differences, it is necessary to understand the history of the governance structure. (For further information, see the brief history and overview of the current governance structure.)
The University of Oxford is legally constituted, and operates in practice, as an interdependent association between the University, its academic divisions and substantively autonomous colleges. Its governance therefore needs to be consistent with the requirements for a well functioning partnership.
The values of subsidiarity and collegiality are important to the success of Oxford. Alongside statutory provisions that ensure efficiency, accountability and propriety, effective governance at Oxford is served by diverse yet coherent structures which maximise participation by all parts of the collegiate University. There is a high degree of delegation of responsibility; this enables individual departments, faculties and colleges to retain responsibilities in key areas where they are best placed to make judgements on matters of direct relevance to them. Delegation takes place within an overall framework that sets required standards, monitors consistency of good practice, and promotes mechanisms that encourage decision-making on the basis of full consultation and consensus-seeking. These mechanisms are part of the distinctiveness of the Oxford model.
Oxford's governance arrangements are well adapted to its nature as a collegiate university with a strong tradition of academic self-government. Council is an actively managing body which, together with its committees, and afforced by strong external participation and with Congregation providing a broad democratic accountability, provides a depth and breadth of involvement in decision-making and supervision which facilitate good governance and foster academic achievement. Monitoring and incremental updating of these governance arrangements continues to ensure their effectiveness. All of this contributes to Oxford's strong success as a research and teaching institution.
These aspects of Oxford's model are very unusual among higher education institutions and it is therefore unsurprising that Oxford's governance arrangements are different in some ways from most other higher education institutions and from some aspect of the Code. Oxford's governance arrangements are in general well adapted to its model and to meeting the overriding governance requirements of accountability and effectiveness. The Audit and Scrutiny Committee's Governance Report, which was received by Council in January 2009, concluded that:
“the University's governance arrangements:
(i) are well adapted to its nature as a collegiate university with a strong tradition of academic self-government;
(ii) through a combination of the work of the Value for Money Committee, Finance Committee, Audit and Scrutiny Committee and PRAC, provide the foundations for adequate and broad oversight of the receipt and use of public money that can be relied upon by third parties; and
(iii) are and have been subject to monitoring, incremental updating and evolution to ensure their continuing effectiveness and appropriateness.”