Corporate governance is a bit of a misnomer—governance is not just for corporations. No—it applies to all organisations—including educational institutions.
For for-profit businesses, corporate governance refers to the relationship between shareholders, stakeholders, and management. When we talk about corporate governance concerning education, we’re looking at the relationship between school boards, donors, and students.
While the stakeholders look different, the purpose is the same - to institute good governance, because good governance informs decision-making, which then allows the business—or school—to run correctly. According to Carrie Irvin, CEO and co-founder of nonprofit Charter Board Partners, in an article in Forbes, schools boards “hold in their hands the ability—the responsibility—to hold schools accountable for academic outcomes for students, and for being well run organisations financially and operationally.”
Governance in education can be made even better when digitised. Universities and educational institutions are under increasing pressure to cut costs and improve efficiencies - this means better communication, better organisation, and better leadership from the top. Going digital can help solve all these problems and make governance in the education sector the best it’s ever been.
So how do we compare good corporate governance with good governance in the education setting?
Dedication to serving stakeholders
Just as a corporate board makes decisions in the best interest of its stakeholders, committees in the education sector have to make decisions that benefit its most important stakeholders—students. Financial decisions that ensure students have the books and materials they need to learn, and the buildings to keep them warm and safe. In some ways, the decisions that boards in education make can be even more important than those of for-profit companies.
Corporate stakeholders demand transparency because they want to know where their money is going. When we are talking about education—depending on the age of the students, they may not be asking questions—but their parents and policymakers will be. Parents want to know what decisions are being made that have a direct impact on their children. If a board is unable to provide that information, they will surely hear from those impacted. And—because the government has a vested interest in education—they will want to know how money is being spent, down to every last penny.
Especially when we look at higher education—where hundreds of thousands of euros are being spent—people want to know that their money is going to education or to bettering the education system. If they find out it’s not—there must be someone to go to for answers. Boards provide accountability, and boards with good governance own up to all of their decisions.
To best serve students, education boards must be diverse—this allows for a diversity of thought and experience—ultimately making the education experience and system better for all who go through it. Irvin states, “When those boards are well composed, and board members understand their roles and responsibilities, they add real accountability, deep expertise and guidance, strategic insight, and a push for results.”
Education—from primary school up through higher ed—is critical. And those who oversee the education system must institute good governance to ensure that all stakeholders—most notably, students—are getting the best there is to offer.