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Governance selection processes in academia: Challenges and opportunities

Apr 04,2024 - Last updated at Apr 04,2024

Individual higher education institutions, as well as the entire system, are established, governed, and funded globally in the interests of students, knowledge advancement, learning, research and development, innovation, equality of opportunity, and the social and economic interests of the nation.  During my time as a member of the national committee for human resources development, I was required to review at least seven countries’ governance selection processes and concluded that in the higher education sector in developed countries, the selection process for governance positions in universities is closely scrutinised. This article examines the challenges and opportunities for improvement in university governance selection processes, particularly the appointment of university president.



One of the most common criticisms revolves around the lack of robust competition in the selection process. Positions, particularly those of university presidents in developing countries, are thought, generally speaking, to be filled not based on merit. This undermines the principles of fairness and equal opportunity.  Non-merit factors, exacerbate the perception of unfairness in the selection process. Such influences can erode trust in the integrity of university governance, impeding progress toward academic excellence.  Limited transparency raises suspicions and undermines public trust in university leadership. 

A lack of competition in governance selection at all levels can have adverse impact on R&D, innovation and academic quality, and stifle innovation and hinder the implementation of best practices. Without a diverse pool of candidates vying for leadership positions, universities risk losing out on new perspectives and ideas critical to improving education and research quality.




Using merit-based criteria in governance selection processes can help restore trust and confidence in the system. Implementing transparent and objective evaluation mechanisms can help ensure that candidates are chosen based on their qualifications, experience and ability to lead effectively.  Implementing measures to improve transparency can boost public trust in the governance of public universities. Establishing clear guidelines and procedures for selection, and ensuring that they are strictly followed, can help mitigate concerns about favoritism and bias.

In conclusion, addressing the challenges of improving governance selection processes in universities necessitates a collaborative effort by stakeholders at all levels. Universities can create an environment that promotes academic excellence, innovation, and inclusive leadership by emphasising meritocracy and transparency. Embracing these opportunities for improvement will not only improve the reputation and performance of any nation’s universities, but will also help to advance higher education in the country and foster economy.


Ahed Al Wahadni is former secretary general of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research


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