These are answers to questions frequently asked by new governors. If your question isn't answered, and you are a governor of an AoC member college, you can email our helpline or call 020 7034 9900.

  • There are many similarities between the role of college governor and that of a school governor. In both cases, the governing body is responsible for financial monitoring, standards within the institution, the employment of the principle and compliance with key legislation. The principal difference, however, is the legal status of further education (FE) governing bodies as independent corporations under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and as exempt charities. This passes many of the statutory responsibilities of the local authority to the corporation and provides more freedom and flexibility in governance. Colleges are directly funded by central government, and colleges are accountable directly to Government through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Education Funding Agency (EFA).

  • The amount of time that you will spend on your governor role varies from college to college, the number of corporation meetings you have and your membership of any additional committees. The clerk to the Corporation will be able to advise you of these things and issue you with a calendar of meetings for the year. You will be expected to attend full corporation meetings. These are generally at least two hours' long, but you should also allow time to prepare by reading the paperwork in advance. In addition, you may periodically be sent other reading and be required to attend training, away days and college events. 

    Most corporations set a target for governor attendance: this is important to ensure a quorum and that the decision-making process is robust. If there are any factors which might affect your ability to attend meetings, it is important that you discuss them with your clerk and Chair.

  • The amount of time that you will spend on your governor role varies from college to college, the number of corporation meetings you have and your membership of any additional committees. The clerk to the Corporation will be able to advise you of these things and issue you with a calendar of meetings for the year. You will be expected to attend full corporation meetings. These are generally at least two hours' long, but you should also allow time to prepare by reading the paperwork in advance. In addition, you may periodically be sent other reading and be required to attend training, away days and college events. 

    Most corporations set a target for governor attendance: this is important to ensure a quorum and that the decision-making process is robust. If there are any factors which might affect your ability to attend meetings, it is important that you discuss them with your clerk and Chair.

  • The Instrument and Articles of Further Education Government, which provides the statutory framework for further education (FE) governance, stipulates that notice of meetings, with agendas, must be sent at least seven days before each meeting. Any supporting papers will usually be sent to you at the same time. These days, many corporations are moving toward e-governance. If you prefer to work electronically, you should discuss options with your clerk to the Corporation.

    I know nothing about the further education sector.  How can I find out more?

    We have listed a number of organisations and websites on our other useful resources page, including the national membership organisation for further education institutions, the Association of Colleges. Other pages of this induction resource, such as setting the scene, provide an introduction to the frameworks and obligations in which colleges operate. Your clerk should be able to provide additional material and information to help you to get to know the college at which you are a governor; some suggestions are listed on the in-house arrangements and about the college pages.

  • The short answer is that you won't. It is very important that, as a governor, you understand the difference between the strategic role of the governing body and the executive role of the principal and  management team. Please see the setting the scene page if you are unclear about this distinction, or speak to your clerk or Chair.

  • All new governors should receive an induction to give them the basic tools and information to start the job. In addition, there are some key responsibilities of which all governors will need to have a knowledge. These include (not exhaustively) financial monitoring; teaching and learning and curriculum issues; and the legal areas of safeguarding, equality and diversity and health and safety. See further information on other legal obligations.  For governors wishing to self-study, this site also holds a set of governor training resources.

  • Many Governors serve a second term of office but this will be subject to a decision by the corporation. Many Corporations set a maximum term of office, often of eight years, with reappointment for a third term only in very exceptional circumstances.

  • All governors are required on appointment to declare any interests that may potentially conflict with their role as governor and the interests of the college. These are often financial interests, but can also include membership of or connections with other organisations or interest groups. The Register of Interests covers your close relatives, including your partner. The acid test is whether the other interest might compromise your independent judgement. Once an interest is declared, the corporation will decide whether you will need to withdraw from consideration of any item where a conflict might occur.

  • The corporation is a collective decision-making body, which means that individual governors are bound to abide with a decision, even if they disagree with it, if it has been made reasonably and honestly. If, however, you have very serious concerns about a decision you can make a request to the chair to put the item back on the agenda at the next meeting. 

  • It is a statutory requirement for a corporation to have at least one staff and one student governor, and corporations can choose to have more. Unless a corporation modifies its Instrument and Articles to provide otherwise, these categories of governor will be nominated and elected by other staff and students respectively. It is important to note, however, that no governor is permitted to be bound by a mandate, or lobby on behalf of any individual or group and must, at all times, act in the best interests of the college. There are, therefore, limited circumstances under which staff and student governors are automatically required to withdraw from meetings. These are laid out within the Instrument and Articles. Outside these requirements, staff and student governors are to be considered as equal to any other governor and potential conflicts of interest are to be considered and managed by the corporation on a case by case basis.