We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Governance and Executive Support

Effectiveness Review of Boards of Studies

The Effectiveness Review of Boards of Studies (ERBoS) ran between May 2017 and February 2019 under the joint leadership of the University Secretary and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost to review the effectiveness of Boards of Studies in supporting the delivery of the University Strategy. The project included two strands of work already identified as key: the role and appointment process of Heads of Departments and modernisation of the Standing Orders of Boards of Studies.

The governance structures of the University, which include Boards of Studies, need to be fit for purpose in supporting management to deliver the University Strategy approved by Senate and Council. The University Secretary has been charged by Council with ensuring that all governance structures are reviewed with this aim in mind.

ERBoS considered the wide range of evidence submitted by Boards of Studies, the AEA, individual members of the University and a sample of minutes from eight Boards. This evidence base informed the development of the Green Paper interim recommendations which were presented to June 2018 Senate, and together with consultation responses to the Green Paper, shaped the Review’s final recommendations in its White Paper which was approved by Senate and Council in February 2019

Key changes approved by Council and Senate included:

  1. A standard role descriptor and key competencies for the role of Head of Department
  2. Updated Standing Orders for Boards of Studies which have been integrated into Joint Standing Orders of Council and Senate, and include a revised definition of membership of Boards of Studies to ensure a greater level of representativeness
  3. A best practice servicing toolkit for Boards of Studies Chairs and Secretaries
  4. Proposals to reinforce Boards of Studies’ role in the academic governance structure of the University by enabling Boards to comment in advance on key Senate papers


As its primary recommendation, ERBoS concluded that the principal purpose of Boards of Studies is to promote the academic advancement of the subject area they represent, and foster and develop a community of scholars committed to this common endeavour.

The full set of recommendations is detailed in the Effectiveness Review of Boards of Studies White Paper

Head of Department Appointment Process: Guidance

Guidance regarding the process for appointment of Heads of Department has been developed.

It you have any queries regarding the Effectiveness Review, please contact James Walsh.