Report of the Principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
The Committee considered a report of the Principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama relative to The Higher Education Code of Governance and the Guildhall School.
The Chairman began by drawing Members’ attention to the Principal’s covering report and highlighted the School’s need to identify alternative means of supporting the core business of training students for professional life, building advocacy for its work and identifying a more diverse range of financial support.
The Committee noted the senior management team’s decision to form an advisory group of industry professionals and other potential advocates who have agreed to work more closely with the School to provide the range of professional advice and support not otherwise available to the management team. The Principal stated that, following the Policy and Resources Committee’s rejection of the School’s proposed amendments to governance earlier this year, this was a renewed attempt at addressing certain issues whilst still operating within existing structures.
The Chairman summarised the current situation by commenting on both Governance issues and management challenges at the School (i.e. a reduction in full time staff dedicated to the financial management of the School) all of which were having a weakening effect.
The Committee went on to examine each of the requirements set out within the CUC Higher Education Code of Governance and the areas identified as needing further explanation/exploration under the new ‘comply or explain’ approach. The Principal stated that he was anxious that the assurances provided by HEFCE at the last, 2011 review referred to within the appendix to the report would not be so favourable when the exercise was repeated in 2016. The Principal went on to outline some of the SMT’s broader anxieties around whether the School, which was now operating in an increasingly competitive market, had the correct governance and management arrangements in place to survive.
The Principal went on to underline the strong view that the School urgently required both a Director of Finance and a Director of Development.
Whilst the Committee noted some of the ‘quick wins’ identified within the appendices to the Principal’s report, there was also some discussion as to whether a more radical response should be considered going forwards. The School could, for example, look into becoming incorporated and gaining Royal Charter status as it was noted that the value of this, internationally, was substantial.
Members’ went on to discuss each of the points highlighted as ‘must’ statements by HEFCE within Appendix 1 to the report. During discussion the following points were made:
· The School should be asked to produce a paper setting out the pros and cons of the School seeking charitable status and this should not be ruled out as a future option;
· Quroum – could this be easily amended by the Board/Court of Common Council to reflect the involvement of all Members (including external Members) or would a change such as this still require Privy Council’s sign off?;
· The City of London was the ‘lender of last resort’;
· The periodical review of KPI’s by the Board of Governors should be revived;
· The Audit and Risk Management Committee of the Board of Governors should be tasked with taking a more pro-active role in terms of setting the audit programme for the School;
· The Town Clerk’s representative to the Board was not an HE specialist and the School would benefit from their own Clerk/Policy Officer.
The Chairman asked that the School provide a composite response to each of the statements following today’s discussion. This would then be presented to the Board of Governors in February 2016.
The Principal stated that he would also be making the Board aware of the existence of the new informal advisory group. A Member asked that the Board also be made aware of the group’s role and terms of reference.