The Council’s role is to make sure that the university is well run, including ensuring King’s financial stability and taking key strategic decisions on behalf of the university. It is made up of appointed and elected members, including staff and students, and appoints a President & Principal to run and manage the university and deliver the university’s strategy.
Working in partnership, the Council scrutinises key financial decisions, provides challenge when it is helpful, monitors the university’s progress against agreed goals and shares constructive feedback with senior leaders.
Who does the Council work for or report to?
Like other universities, King’s College London is a charity and members of Council serve as trustees, like how a Board of Directors might work in a private or public sector organisation. They have a legal duty to act in the long-term interests of the university, not as representatives of any part of the university, or of any individual, interest, faction or group.
Who governs Council?
Members of Council are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the seven principles of public life identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and with the university’s Charter and Statutes, Ordinances, Regulations and policies and procedures.
Further, the Office for Students, as part of its regulatory framework, has established conditions which all registered higher education institutions must meet, and which assigns responsibility to Council for ensuring those conditions are met.
Members of the Council and members of its standing committees and subcommittees adhere to the Council Conflict of Interest Policy, which ensures that all members of Council disclose their interests every year and any conflicts are immediately declared if related matters are due to be discussed in a Council meeting or on an upcoming agenda. This is consistent with good practice in the higher education sector. The Governance and Nominations Committee would consider any complaints about individual members of Council.
Who sits on the Council and how do staff and students play a role?
Like other universities, our Council is made up of some appointed independent members, as well as staff and students, including the KCLSU President. All independent members give up their time voluntarily and are unpaid for their roles.
Today, the Council consists of 12 independent members, each offering specific expertise across a range of key areas, as well as accountability on decision making and the spending of public funds. These independent members are appointed on the recommendation of the Governance & Nominations Committee (GNC). See the King's website for more information on the GNC and the criteria considered when identifying, appointing and reappointing independent members of the Council.
In addition to independent members, the Council includes the Principal, the President of KCLSU and six staff. During 2018-19, as part of a review of our governance, we looked at the representation of staff on our Council. Three of the staff seats on Council are allocated to appointed members, usually senior leaders, and three to staff members elected by and from our Academic Board – more on that later.
The Council’s current mix of student, staff, and independent representation delivers the expertise and accountability required to look beyond the day-to-day running of the university and provides effective and independent governance of the institution over the long term.
Who sits on Council currently?
See our list of current members of Council. Independent members who are alumni of King’s include Lord Geidt, Nhuoc Lan Tu and Paul Cartwright.
What does the Council do?
The Council has a wide range of responsibilities, all squarely focused on securing the long-term future of King’s. They include:
- Defining and upholding the university's mission, vision and strategic direction
- Monitoring the university's progress against agreed goals
- Establishing management systems and monitoring their effectiveness
- Ensuring that delegated responsibilities are clearly defined for the university's standing committees
- Ensuring that the university has effective risk management and internal controls
- Overseeing the effective and prudential operation of the university
- Approving and monitoring commercial undertakings.
The Council’s work is supported by a number of committees and sub-committees. There are robust governance procedures in place to ensure transparent and independent decision-making processes across the entire governance structure.
This includes clear separation between Council meetings and our investment management decisions, which are made by a separate committee and taken on independent professional advice. Decisions regarding remuneration are taken by the Remuneration Committee - a standing committee of College Council. The Remuneration Committee reports directly into Council, and its membership does not include the Principal or any other member of the Senior Management Team.
What are some of the things that Council has done recently to improve the university?
Over the past several years, Council has been actively involved in advising and working with the senior team on a range of critical issues leading to decisions such as: the acquisition of Bush House, creation of King’s Business School, rejuvenation of engineering programmes, development of the Quad in the Strand Campus and creation of the Centre for Young People’s Mental Health at Denmark Hill, the strategic focus on student success and a particular focus on staff through the formation of the Staff and Culture Strategy Committee and 2023 staff survey.
Council was closely engaged with the senior team through the Covid crisis supporting measures to ensure the College’s sustainability and the wellbeing of staff and students.
Perhaps the most important decision taken in recent years was the selection and appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor & President. Now, with Principal Shitij Kapur and his colleagues, Council is supporting and advising on new long-range initiatives such as the campus masterplanning project, significant improvements to infrastructure systems for staff and students, and the strategy refresh.
What does the Academic Board do and how do students and staff play a role?
While the Council is responsible for the long-term sustainability of King’s and ensuring the university operates in an effective and financially viable manner, it has a separate body, established through Statute, that is responsible for ‘the regulation of the academic work of the university in teaching and examining and in research’ and for advising the Council on academic matters. This is the role of the Academic Board.
The Academic Board is a multidisciplinary body that includes senior leaders, Faculty Deans and KCLSU Student Officers, along with elected and appointed student, academic and professional services staff members.
It is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the quality of our academic provision and standards. It also conveys to the Council the academic experience, knowledge and views of students and staff on matters impacting academic development and education, and research quality.
Was the Academic Board included in the 2018–19 review?
As a standing committee of Council, the Academic Board was part of the 2018-19 review, but given it’s special nature, a separate working group, largely composed of academic staff, was established to carry out the review.
The working group consulted widely with the King’s community and its report resulted in a transformed Academic Board with significant increases in elected staff and student representation. A range of changes were implemented that included:
- Increasing the size of the Academic Board to 81 members.
- Increasing the number of elected staff seats; 48 of the 81 seats on the Academic Board are taken by elected academic and professional services staff compared to 20 appointed staff members.
- Increasing the number of elected student seats from three to nine alongside four seats for King’s College London Student Union sabbatical officers.
- Creating seats for professional services staff and research-focused staff
- Restructuring the committees that report to the Academic Board to allow for greater delegation of transactional matters.
The goal of the changes was to reinvigorate the Academic Board, making it a more effective body with broader staff participation, to ensure a wider range of academic voices are heard.
Another aim was to restructure its work so that members spent less time on bureaucratic matters and instead had the opportunity to engage on academic issues and proposals of strategic importance at earlier stages of their development.
A third objective was to strengthen the relationship between the Academic Board and the Council so that there was greater appreciation for each other’s role.
How have the changes to the Council and Academic Board been going?
It has been five years since we reviewed our Governance and reforms to Council and Academic Board were made, with Council discussions enriched by input from a more diverse group of staff and the Academic Board gaining better awareness, through regular reports, of the issues facing the Council.
In terms of the Academic Board itself, more transactional matters are now delegated to its standing committees, allowing members to focus more on setting out and delivering on strategic goals. Every meeting now begins with an hour-long session devoted to an area of strategic importance.
When is the next review of our governance, what will it entail?
We think it’s important that we keep improving the way Council operates which is why Council has established a five-year mandated review of its effectiveness.
The 2023-24 governance review is now underway. To carry out the review, Council has appointed Advance HE, a specialist member-led organisation that works to improve higher education for staff, students and society, with significant expertise in effective higher education governance.
The review is focussing on key areas such as:
- The structure of the Council including skills, diversity and size.
- Member recruitment, appointment/election and induction.
- Respective committees and delegations and their relationship with Council
- The culture of governance and alignment with the university’s priorities and values
- Decision making and accountability
- How Council engage with the King’s Communities in the governance of the university
How can I get involved?
Council Governance Review: Listening to the views of our students and staff from across the university is an important part of this review. The Advance HE team are seeking feedback from the King's communities in a variety of ways including interviews, meetings and focus groups and inviting feedback and comment directly via email to KCLgovernance@advance-he.ac.uk.
Academic Board: Each year, in the spring, the College Secretariat issues calls for nominations for elected seats on the Academic Board. About a third of the elected seats come vacant in any given year. In addition, from time to time there will be a call for nominations for staff and student seats on standing committees of Council. These seats are filled through an appointment process managed by the Governance & Nominations Committee.
How long can a Chair of Council be in position for?
The Chair of Council is eligible to serve for up to nine years. We are pleased that Lord Geidt has agreed to continue his role as Chair of King’s College Council, for a third and final term. Given the exceptional circumstances of recent years, and Lord Geidt’s stewardship throughout this period, Council unanimously approved his third and final three-year term as Chair, the maximum permitted under our governance rules.
It has been the role of Council to assist the university’s senior leadership team in steering King’s throughout this complex and challenging period of recent years, with an emphasis on the interests and wellbeing of our students and staff.
As we continue to rebuild after the pandemic, senior counsel and stewardship from an experienced governor and King’s alumnus has proved invaluable.
What does the recruitment process for a new Chair look like?
The exact process is to be determined next year, but we do expect to engage staff and student members of Council in the selection process and will consult the broader King’s Community about the profile, skills and background that we should be looking for. That input will help shape the brief for a final recruitment process. The Governance and Nominations Committee will be responsible for managing the process with Council making the final decision.
What is the timescale for the current Chair of Council’s replacement being announced?
This will be considered by Council, and we look forward to updating the community about the expected timescale in the new year as the process and plans are finalised.
How can I stay informed about the activities of Council?
Council agendas and documents are posted on the College Secretariat webpage
Council reports to each meeting of the Academic Board on its activities and those reports are also on the webpage as part of the papers for the Academic Board meetings.