More autonomy to institutions and increased focus on institutional policies implies that institutional governing bodies are becoming central actors in developing strategies for universities or colleges. The Board of the institution is an important actor in the decision-making process and formally the most central elected strategic body at the institutional level. The governing Board can be viewed as an important arena for institutional change and is also responsible for quality assurance, efficiency and effectiveness. This article investigates the role of the governing Boards in higher education institutions. Three perspectives on organisations are used in order to illuminate the Board's roles. An instrumental perspective focuses on roles that may be expected according to the mandate of the Board. The point of departure for this approach is the legal base of the Board. Neo-institutional theory focuses attention on the possible decoupling between the formal structure and actual behaviour, and discusses the circumstances under which this arises. In a political model the Board is seen as an arena for the practice of power and promotion of interests where the members have conflicting preferences which they attempt to advance through negotiation and formation of coalitions.
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