University boards provide guidance and direction for the faculty, the administration and the institution itself. Collectively, they’re all responsible for making sure that the university’s offerings are relevant and of high quality. An advisory board can be instrumental in connecting board members, educators and students in achieving the university’s goals.
Advisory boards help to govern universities more effectively, and they can be a big asset for boards. External stakeholders from local businesses, industries, government and education provide value in helping to deliver academic programs.
Do All Universities Need an Advisory Board?
Not all universities necessarily need an advisory board. However, if they think they need one, they probably do. Boards should consider establishing an advisory board when they’re facing needs that fall outside the usual, ongoing roles and responsibilities of the board.
It’s advisable to form an advisory board when issues are too complex for the board to handle on their own. Advisory boards can also be helpful for boards that are facing a vast degree of change or when they’re facing numerous major issues all at once.
Boards can establish advisory boards as standing boards or boards can implement them on an ad hoc basis. Boards that establish an advisory board because of ongoing, major activities that they project will last more than a year should make it a standing advisory board. Boards that need the advice and consultation of an advisory board for one to nine months should make it an ad hoc advisory board.
Boards should carefully establish the scope and expectations for their advisory boards and put their duties and responsibilities in writing.
Function and Value of Advisory Board
Boards should consider the composition of their advisory boards carefully. The advisory board should complement the knowledge and skills of the board. Advisory board members provide guidance, knowledge, skills and feedback to the board, typically as it pertains to a specific area of expertise. Advisory boards can be a critical link in partnering with board members and the administration in research and community collaborations.
Advisory boards may also serve other limited purposes. Some boards utilize them for providing membership to retired CEOs, board chairs, major contributors or others to give them special status.
Responsibilities for University Advisory Boards
The description and role of a university advisory board should outline what the board does and doesn’t do. Advisory boards don’t have formal authority to govern the institution and they don’t issue directives of any kind. Advisory boards should select a chair, who will provide the direct communication of their work to the university board of directors.
Boards of directors should carefully consider the personal characteristics of their advisory board members. They should be people who have a reputation for honesty and integrity. Advisory board members should be skilled at active listening and analyzing and should express clear thinking. The advisory board members need to be willing to work collaboratively and to provide constructive feedback to each other and to the board. As with any other type of board service, advisory board members should be open to differing points of views, be patient and responsive, and be willing to engage.
Serving on an advisory board requires less time than serving on a board of directors. Depending on their charter and description, advisory boards may meet on a regular basis, perhaps biannually or on an as-needed basis. When they do meet, advisory boards should give their meetings due diligence, making sure to review the agenda, add input and review all supporting materials.
In choosing members for an advisory board, board trustees should consider the candidates’ interest and concern for developing or enhancing programs. Advisory board members should make it a practice to be informed about programs, students, curricula, services, support and activities.
Advisory board members play a vital role for trustees in providing key information and developments in their respective fields. In this way, they assist board trustees in identifying and implementing best practice standards for new and existing programs. Active advisory board members will provide recommendations for topics for advisory board meetings.
Advisory board members may be critical components of new programs. In addition to making recommendations and providing advice and support, advisory board members make sure that programs are current and relevant to business, industry, labor and professional development practices. Advisory board members may help to assess the labor market and the demand for certain programs. They may also be involved with other areas of programming, such as marketing, promotion, fundraising and assisting with job placement for program graduates. Advisory board members who are active and involved in their duties will become valuable assets as program ambassadors and advocates.
Connecting Boards of Trustees’ Work With Advisory Board Work Using a Board Portal
Board portals provide a secure platform where advisory boards can conduct their meetings in a secure space. The work of advisory boards is interdependent with board of trustees’ board work and board portal software provides a platform for both boards to work together. A board portal, such as BoardEffect, supports greater efficiency, consistency and the ability to track progress.
BoardEffect provides a rich resource library full of sample documents to assist advisory boards in streamlining their meetings and fulfilling their responsibilities. BoardEffect’s platform enables better and stronger communication and collaboration between board trustees and advisory board members.
Additional Information About University Advisory Boards
Members of university advisory boards typically don’t receive any financial compensation for their service to the board of trustees and the university. The board may, and usually does, reimburse them for expenses related to board services.
The number of board directors for a university advisory board varies significantly. An advisory board may be as small as two or three members, or may have up to 15 members or more. Boards of trustees may set terms for advisory board members. Typically, they choose a two-year term limit, after which they may renew additional terms based on the advisory board member’s interest, involvement, or the needs of the board or university.
As with other types of boards, boards of trustees should compose advisory boards considering how diverse perspectives and experiences based on gender, race, ethnicity, geographic location, age or other issues may enhance the work of the advisory board.