The politics of university governance and United Kingdom devolution

Boggs, Andrew M. and Middlehurst, Robin (2018) The politics of university governance and United Kingdom devolution. In: Cantwell, Brendan , Coates, Hamish and King, Roger, (eds.) Handbook on the politics of Higher Education. Cheltenham, U.K. : Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. pp. 46-65. ISBN 9781786435019


The United Kingdom’s historic constitutional evolution is resulting in an increasingly federal system of government. Like many other countries, including Germany, the United States and Canada, policy responsibility for higher education in the United Kingdom (UK) is a devolved matter. In the case of the UK, the home nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have responsibility for higher education policy. This devolution of higher education policy is leading to points of divergence within UK higher education policy and is also creating key areas of UK-wide policy coordination. These policy developments are having a significant impact on university governance and the way universities engage with government. Devolved policy may directly impact upon university governance (as in Scotland’s Higher Education Governance Act 2016) or indirectly influence university governance (as in the proposed changes to higher education quality assurance in England and Northern Ireland and Wales’s proposed reforms to regulation). This chapter maps the history of higher education governance types in the UK, the emergence and evolution of devolution in UK higher education policy, the politics driving the higher education policy agenda of the home nations and the impact of these changes on university governance.

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