|Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
The University’s governance structure ensures accountability, honesty, integrity, and openness within the University. Full information about the University’s governance structure is available in the brief history and overview of the University's governance arrangements, with a short summary provided here.
The University of Oxford was originally established by common law and later formally incorporated by statute. The University is separate from its colleges, which are founded by charter and are independent and self-governing. The most recent significant changes to the University's internal structures were approved in 1999, following a complete review of organisation, management and financing. A new set of Statutes was enacted in 2002, together with supporting Regulations, and these form the basis of the current legislation.
Congregation: The sovereign body and 'parliament' of the University is Congregation and decisions made by Congregation are binding on Council. There are over 5,500 members (with many more eligible to join if they wish). Membership is available to most academic staff, members of college governing bodies and senior research, computing, library and administrative staff. The role of Congregation is to: consider major policy issues, which are submitted to it by Council or by members of Congregation; elect members to Council and other University bodies (including the Audit and Scrutiny Committee); approve the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor; and approve changes or additions to the University's Statutes and Regulations. The existence of Congregation ensures that a very high level of accountability and integrity is maintained.
Council: Council is the executive governing body responsible for the academic policy and strategic direction of the University, subject to the powers of Congregation. All decisions concerning the University are made by Council or by any other body or person to whom Council delegates such decision-making powers, always, as described above, subject to the powers of Congregation. The members of Council are charity trustees, bound by fiduciary duties, ensuring accountability, honesty, integrity.
Committees: Below Council are a number of major committees: the Education Committee, the General Purposes Committee (GPC), the Personnel Committee, the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC), and the Research and Innovation Committee. These committees are responsible for the matters that Council delegates to them by Regulation or otherwise. Their role is generally one of review, oversight, co-ordination, monitoring and planning although they do have certain decision-making powers as set out in the Regulations. The committees consider reports and, where appropriate, make recommendations to Council.
Academic Divisions: There are four academic divisions led by full-time divisional heads (who sit on Council and its key committees) and have divisional boards to which faculty boards and department committees report. The divisions have considerable delegated academic policy-making authority, as well as budgetary and financial authority within the confines of their budgets (as approved by Council). Their principal responsibilities are oversight and strategic planning, with recommendations made to Council or its committees for major decisions in their respective areas.
Conference of Colleges: Standing alongside the University's governance structure is the Conference of Colleges, providing a means for the colleges to collectively engage with the University. This is a consultative forum and its purpose is to gather the views of colleges, establish a consensus (where possible) and reflect the views of college governing bodies. The Conference of Colleges is represented on Council and on all major committees. The ensure accountability and openness.
The University’s Statutes, and the regulations made under those statutes, provide the framework for accountability.
Staff and students
(and the regulations made under these statutes)
Finance and resources:
(2) Policies and procedures
Council, itself or through its committees, issues policies and procedures regarding, amongst other things, different aspects of accountability. Examples are provided below, where relevant with the responsible committee in parenthesis.
Council’s Education Committee publishes Examination Regulations and policies and procedures relating to teaching and learning, and is responsible for oversight of this area. Further information on that may be found below.
|Student engagement: The governing body ensures that all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence.
Section 13 of Statute VI, concerning Council, provides for three student members to attend meetings of Council except for such matters of business as may be prescribed by regulation. Regulations 4-10 of Council Regulations 13 of 2002, concerning Council, and Council’s Standing Orders (scroll down to access them) further provide for the role of those student representatives.
Council’s regulations for committees (Council Regulations 14 and 15 of 2002, passim) provide for student representation on the relevant central committees, and regulations 31-39 of Council Regulations 17 of 2002 provide for student member attendance at Divisional Boards.
Policy and guidance
Beyond this legislative provision, Council’s Education Committee has issued Policy and Guidance on student engagement and representation which is complemented by Oxford Student Union’s Staff Guide to Student Representation.
|Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
Council’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of the University’s arrangements for, amongst other things, value for money (Part 8 of Council Regulations 15 of 2002).
This is reported on to Council in the Annual Internal Audit Report.
The Planning and Resource Allocation Committee produce an annual Value for Money report to Council.
|Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
Council is the University’s governing body. Its composition is laid down in sections 4-14 of Statute VI, concerning Council. It has between 26-28 members. Its membership consists of the principal elements of the University, including the Vice-Chancellor, the heads of the four academic divisions, the chair of the Conference of Colleges and one person elected by the Conference of Colleges, eleven members elected by Congregation, and five external members. Its role and composition in the context of the University’s governance structures are set out in the University’s Financial Statements and are discussed further as part of the history and overview of the University's governance arrangements.
The current membership of Council is provided in the Financial Statements and is kept updated on the Council website.
|Fit and proper: Members of the Governing Body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.
Prior to taking up office, and annually at the start of the academic year thereafter, members of Council are required to make a declaration of eligibility as fit and proper persons to act as charity trustees, in accordance with Charity Commission and HMRC guidance. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors with portfolio, the Registrar and the Chief Financial Officer are also required to make the same declaration as fit and proper persons prior to taking up office and annually thereafter. The declaration form is checked annually for currency by Legal Services prior to issue.
Those above people and other senior officers, as defined in the University’s Conflict of Interest Policy and in Council’s Standing Orders are also required to make annual conflict of interest returns. The conflict of interest declarations made by Council members and certain senior officers are available on the Council website.