Role description for Chair of Council

General overview

The Chair is responsible to the University’s stakeholders for the leadership of the Council and ultimately for its effectiveness. As Chair of its meetings s/he should promote its wellbeing and efficient operation, ensuring that its members work together effectively and have confidence in the procedures laid down for the conduct of business.

The Chair is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the Council establishes oversight and discusses those issues which it needs to discuss, and dispatches its responsibilities in a business-like way. S/he must ensure that, where responsibility is delegated to committees and individuals in the interests of efficiency, appropriate reports are made back to Council on the discharge of those responsibilities.

The Chair should take particular care that all members of the Council observe the principles of behaviour in public life (the 'Nolan Principles'), which embrace selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The Chair also has a responsibility to ensure, along with the Vice-Chancellor and others, that the institution is well connected and represented with its stakeholders and other external bodies.

Relationship to the executive

Through leadership of the Council, the Chair plays a key role in the business of the University, but should not be drawn into executive management. For the Council to be effective, there must be a constructive working relationship between the Chair and the Vice-Chancellor as executive head of the institution, with both parties recognising that their roles are formally distinct. The relationship should be mutually supportive, but must also incorporate the checks and balances imposed by the different roles.

It is good practice for the Chair, the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar and Secretary to work closely together within the legal framework provided by the charter, statutes, ordinances and regulations laid down by the University and the Funding Council’s Financial Memorandum.

The Chair will be formally and informally involved in the process for the recruitment of senior appointments to the University and is responsible, on behalf of the Council, for reviewing the performance of the Vice-Chancellor on a regular basis and for making recommendations to the Remuneration Committee accordingly. The Chair will also review the performance of individual members of Council.

Key responsibilities and accountabilities

Ensuring that:

a) The proceedings of the Council are conducted in as open a manner as possible.

b) There is an orderly succession of members of Council.

c) All members of the Council, when taking up office, are fully briefed on the terms of their appointment and made aware of the responsibilities placed on them for the proper governance of the University.

d) Opportunities for further development for all members of the Council are provided regularly in accordance with their individual needs, and that appropriate financial provision is made for support.

Personal attributes

The Chair will have a strong personal commitment to higher education and have empathy with the values, aims and objectives of the University of York. S/he will also share the University’s vision and aspirations to national and international excellence as well as understand the multiple academic and business drivers needed to underpin this.

Furthermore, in addition to adherence to the 'Nolan Principles' referred to above, the following are key attributes for the role of Chair:

  • diplomacy and sensitivity
  • sound judgement and judiciousness
  • demonstrable authority
  • ability to deal with conflict in a constructive manner
  • skills of networking, influencing and advocacy
  • political awareness
  • ability to establish good working relationships with a diverse range of people (staff, students, other lay members of Council and its committees)
  • understanding of the economic, social and political dynamics of York and the region
  • demonstrable commitment to equality and diversity
  • sympathy with and understanding of the University’s culture 

Knowledge and experience

  • Relevant professional expertise and knowledge in matters relevant to the successful operation of a large, diverse organisation. For example, commercial acumen, risk management, performance management.
  • Interested in and empathetic towards current challenges facing higher education (experience of higher education management or governance as such is not essential).

Contact us

Chair of Council: Alice Maynard

For agendas and minutes: Adam Hewitt
Interim University Secretary

Hannah Smallpage-Hurst
Governance & Assurance Administrator