People are asking me to deliver in-house workshops on policy good practice for university staff. So I’ve had to develop a flyer. This seemed to need a brief description of good practice in tertiary institution policy. Here’s the thumbnail sketch of this very complex topic that I came up with.
Most Australasian tertiary institutions need to improve their policy suite and how it is communicated to students and staff. There may be too many policies and procedures, including over-detailed material, written in ponderous language. Policies and procedures need to be combined into a tighter textual structure. which is easier to manage, navigate, read and communicate. Process detail needs to be moved outside the policy suite, where it can be updated by management. Policy needs to be aligned with IT systems so its effectiveness can be monitored through data measures. It needs to be aligned with regulatory frameworks and delegations of authority. Efficient, meaningful consultation is needed to ensure policies and procedures are relevant and staff are engaged with them. Individual policies need to be developed and implemented using project management methods, including change management. Institutions need a glossary of terms used in policies, with clear, concise definitions. Policies must be published on an easily usable, searchable platform with version histories and online feedback. Students and staff need support and resources to help them engage with policy.
Policy managers and policy developers can help transform the institutional policy culture, policy suite and policy library, if they understand how to go about it. This workshop equips them to do so.
What do you think?
I myself am aware that I left out four essential framing factors. The primary one is that the senior executive of the university have to lead the approach to policy, modelling a high regard for policy. To do this they need a well developed understanding of good practice in policy. Without this support, policy managers and policy developers are likely to have limited success at transforming the policy culture.
Also, student representatives must be included in policy leadership, not merely consulted about student-facing policy drafts. They should be involved in planning the direction of the institutional policy suite, as members of a group that steers the suite. (The creation of such a group is the third framing factor.) This is consistent with Professor Sally Varnham’s work on the student voice and its importance for institutional quality.
The fourth and last factor that I left out is transformation of institutional governance so that it checks regularly whether policies are achieving their intended effects. Governance committees should not be involved in approval of detailed processes under policy (this should be the role of management), but rather should debate the objectives of policies. Management should report to the committees on whether these purposes are being achieved.
With all these factors in place, the institutional policy culture can really start cooking!
But these framing factors seemed too much to explain in my little sketch – and perhaps a little scary for a marketing flyer – but I’ll certainly be including them in the detailed model of good practice I present in the workshops.