Glossary of terms used in Governance

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Higher Education Institutions use a variety of terminology to describe similar things, as you can imagine this can cause confusion.

You can go to two universities 10 minutes apart and they will use different words for the head of the university, committees which have the same purposes and even groups of departments.

This guide aims to help you to understand terminology at Goldsmiths and some common higher education phrases or abbreviations.

Academic Board

Academic Boards is the principal academic authority within the College committee system. Academic Board is responsible for managing all academic and research business at the College and providing assurance to Council the College is striving for and maintaining the highest provision.

Academic Board is made up of representatives from all stakeholders across the College and as the most senior academic authority is chaired by the Warden.

Academic Progression and Title Awards Sub-Committee

Makes decisions in relation to the promotion of academic staff to new academic roles and associated pay grades and the progression of academic staff within their existing pay grades.

Access and Participation Plan

A plan submitted to HEIs regulator which outlines how the HEI intends to support under-represented groups to access and succeed in Higher Education.

Admissions tutor

A member of staff based in a university department who is in charge of admissions to that particular course.


A graduate of a particular university (plural = alumni).

Audit and Risk Committee

Audit and Risk Committee is central to control and accountability across the College. The Committee oversees the risk management arrangements and assures Council that management have an appropriate risk appetite and are effectively identifying, assessing and managing risk. This includes having policies in place for Fraud and irregularity.

Ensures policies and processes are in place processes including the appointment and monitoring of internal and external auditors.

The Committee ensures that the College’s statutory and accountability documents are correct, accurate, complete and reliable.

Chair of Council

Council is the most senior body that governs the College. The Chair is the leader of this body and facilitates all discussion and decision making.


The Chancellor is an external individual who is the figurehead of the College.


The Charter is the College’s principal governing document. It provides a high level, overarching statement of the College’s founding purpose and defines the governance of the College and legitimises its’ existence. 

The Charter outlines the College’s charitable purpose as a higher educational institution.


A system operated by UCAS which allows students to identify and apply to places on courses that still have vacancies, after the publication of A level and other equivalent results.


Committees area a key part of the key making process of the College.

They are an opportunity to discuss issues, share information, make decisions and recommendations to a superior body. Minutes from the meeting are kept as a part of the official institutional record of key decision and discussions. Committees report to parent body and the highest body, Council.


Specialist knowledge needed to do a particular job. Can sometimes be called skills.


The composition of the committee sets out who is a member of the committee, and who is 'in attendance' (ie present but may not vote). The composition cannot be changed except by the superior committee.


Confidential items are items that will not be routinely published under the Freedom of Information Act. The below reasons outline the circumstances in which an item might be categorised as confidential:

Information about living individuals (including, but not limited to, members of staff, students or research subjects) the processing of which is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998:

  • Information that might jeopardise the health and safety of staff, students or the public
  • Information that might prejudice the College's commercial interests
  • Information that would prejudice the prevention or detection of crime or the prosecution of offenders
  • Information concerning legal proceedings or investigations being carried out by the university that might lead to criminal or civil proceedings
  • Information held under legal obligation of confidentiality


The governing body of the College. It is composed of a mixture of independent (lay) members, members of staff of the College, and representatives of the Students’ Union.

As a charitable body, the Council are required to ensure that funds are used in line with the objectives of the Charter.


Academic member of staff in charge of a faculty or department.


Qualification awarded after the successful completion of undergraduate study. BA (Bachelor of Arts) for a first degree in Arts and BSc (Bachelor of Science) for a first degree in Science, are the two most common undergraduate degrees.

Degrees can be studied as a single subject (single honours), two subjects (joint honours) or two or three subjects (combined honours).

Degree Classifications

Honours degrees are divided into 4 'classes':

1 - or first class, the highest level

2.1 - upper second class

2.2 - lower second class

3 - third class

A degree without honours is known as a 'pass' degree or an ordinary degree.

Diploma of higher education (Dip HE)

This qualification is the equivalent to completing two years of degree study. Many students use this course as a vehicle to continue onto a first degree, but it is also a qualification in its own right.

Courses are mainly taken in colleges of higher education and can include nursing, social work, music, and art and design.


Subject of study, e.g. computer science.

Distance learning

Study that doesn't involve physically attending the university. Makes use of the TV, radio, post, CD-ROMs, video and increasingly the Internet.


Has a doctorate.

Estates and Infrastructure Committee

The Committee is responsible for planning, monitoring and advising on all matters relating to the College’s physical and virtual estate. This estate includes student accommodation, whether it is in Goldsmiths’ buildings or not.

Though the Committee guides the strategy, it would not be responsible for decisions with a significant financial implication. For example, although the Finance and Resources Committee is responsible for approving the sale of buildings, they would act on recommendations from the Estates and Infrastructure Committee who have oversight of the use of the whole estate and the pressures.


An individual is a member of a committee or body as a result of their job and they are not appointed for a term.

External Relations Committee

The Committee has delegated authority from Council to monitor and approve the College’s strategy in relation to all non-academic external relations, these include Marketing, Brand and Communications; Alumni Relations; Fundraising; Business and Community Engagement and Public Affairs.

The Committee also monitors the relationship between the careers services and external organisations and the impact for students.

Finance and Resources Committee

Council are responsible for the overall management of funds, however they delegate the monitoring and scrutiny of strategy and spend to the Finance and Resources Committee.

The Committee reviews the approach to financial management and ensures it aligns with the College’s overarching strategic aims and charitable purpose. This includes the financial implications of estate management.

The Committee ensures that processes are in place to meet with expectations and requirements of external regulatory bodies. The Committee recommends to Council the annual budget. 

Foundation Degree

A vocational degree, which is two years full-time or three years if taken as a sandwich course. A foundation degree can lead straight on to a first degree, which could be completed in twelve months. Entry requirements are at least one A level (or equivalent) or a vocational qualification at level 3, e.g. NVQ.


First year students are often called ‘Freshers’ during their first couple of weeks at university. Freshers have the opportunity to find out more about the university and societies on offer during a Freshers Fair or Freshers Week.

Halls of residence

Communal accommodation for students, usually on campus or nearby which offer full or half board facilities (meals provided) or self-catering. First year students are often given preference for a place in a hall of residence.


The abbreviation for higher education.

Head of Department

Heads of Department are responsible for leading their department. They do a term of 3 years which can be renewed for another 3 years if they wish to. They are responsible for the operational management of their department including staff structure.

Health and Safety Committee

Council have responsibility for the Health and Safety of all members of the Goldsmiths’ community. The oversight and review of this provision and measures is delegated to Health and Safety Committee.

This committee should advise to improve provision and respond to reports and trends.

Human Resources and Equality Committee

Council are responsible for ensuring the College meet all aspects of the Equality and Diversity Act, however they delegate the monitoring of how this is delivered through staffing structure and recruitment processes.

The Committee, on behalf of Council, reviews the human resources and Equality and Diversity Strategy, including establishing KPIs.


International Baccalaureate - an internationally recognised alternative to A Levels.


Institute of higher education.

Independent Member of Council

Independent Members make up 50% of the College Council. As a charity the College is required to have external and independent input in the management and governance of the institution. The independent input ensures that decisions are not agreed to the sole benefit on internal individuals.

Insight course

A two or three day course which offers you the chance to try out various jobs for real in specially designed case studies, and get a feel for the demands and pressure of an industry


A period of work experience, lasting from a few weeks to a year. Can also be called a placement.

Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee

Forum for consultation and, where appropriate, negotiation, between the College and Trade Union representatives of staff.

Matters may include those relating to the contractual and customary conditions of service of staff of the College, including the procedures by which these are implemented and any employee relations or consultative mechanisms.


Master of Arts - a higher level degree award that normally follows on from a BA.

Mature Student

Student entering higher education at age 21 or above.


Many universities divide degree courses into modules. Students are required to pass a certain number of modules to complete a programme.

Nominations and Governance Committee

Overseas the mechanisms of governance across the College.

They are responsible for identifying the criteria and process for the recruitment of lay members. They make recommendations to Council on the appointment of all lay and internal members. Its remit also extends to the appointment of Heads and Acting Heads of Department on the Warden’s Nomination.


Office for Students, the regulator of Higher Education Institutions


The majority of items should be open. Open items can and should be shared publically. Open agendas, papers and minutes should be uploaded onto the Goldsmiths website and be available for anyone to review.


Provide detailed information about the remit and terms for particular decision making bodies including Academic Board and Departmental Boards. They also outline terms and conditions for staff employment and research.

Ordinances and any required amendments have to be approved by Council.


Postgraduate Certificate of Education - a one-year teaching qualification for people who already possess a degree.


A period of work experience, paid or unpaid which is part of a course. Can be arranged by yourself or by the university.

Postgraduate study

Course of study taken after a first degree. These are divided into taught programmes such as Masters degrees and postgraduate diplomas/certificates and research programmes such as PhDs and MPhils.


Pro-Wardens are senior members of staff who support the Warden is managing the College. Each Pro-Warden has a strategic area of responsibility which supports the College in delivering on its core mission. The current areas are:

  • Teaching and Learning
  • Research
  • International

Professional Progression Sub-Committee

Makes decisions in relation to the promotion of professional services staff to roles and associated pay grades and the progression of professional services staff within their existing pay grades.

Professional qualification

Courses leading to professional qualification, taken after graduation offered directly by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) etc. These are mostly part time and undertaken alongside your job. Often the employer sets up the arrangement.

Professional services

Professional Services staff are all non-academic staff; they support the delivery of services across the College.


Most senior academic title. A professorship is given to a colleague when they have demonstrated national/international standing in their relevant subject or demonstrated outstanding advancement in their area through both publications and teaching.


This is the minimum number of members of a committee needed in order to legitimately make decisions or take actions on item.


A reader is a senior academic title. It recognises the work of academic colleagues and their contribution to their subject.


The Regulations are the terms and conditions of enrolment for students studying at Goldsmiths. The College’s ordinances outline how regulations are created and can be amended.

Remuneration Committee

Delegated authority for setting remuneration for all of the Senior Management Team.

It recommends and monitors the structure of remuneration for senior management, ensuring that the arrangements support the strategic aims of the College.


Reserved items are closed and may not be divulged to anyone else. This category should only be used sparingly. Reserved business will not be published by the College. Reserved business will predominantly relate to private, personal or individual information, for example appointments or promotions or honorary degrees.

Sabbatical Officers

Sabbatical Officers are elected annually by the student assembly. The Sabbatical Officers represent the student body and each officer has a different remit. The Sabbatical Officers sit on the majority of College committees to represent the student voice.

Standing Order

Provide details about the running of the College committees, including constitution, membership, quoracy.


Determine the basic framework of the College's governance structure, and form the Second Schedule to the Charter. This model is common to virtually all those universities in the UK, which, like the University of London, were founded before 1992.

Student assembly

The Student Assembly is the Student body who are members of the Students Union. Being a member of the Students Assembly gives a student the right to vote in student elections and student council matters

Student loan

The main source of help for students towards living costs is the student loan. The government provides these low interest loans. Graduates do not need to begin repayment of loans until they have reached a specific level of income.

Student representative

There are student representatives on the majority of College committees. The majority of the student representatives are the Sabbatical Officers, however there are additional student roles which are voted for by the Student Assembly.

It is the Council’s responsibility ‘protect the collective student interest through good governance’ and to reflect on the performance of the institution as a whole in meeting strategic objectives and associated measures of performance, and the contribution of the governing body to that success, taking account of the views of student communities. Student representation is essential for delivery on these responsibilities. The student communities are represented by the Student Union President and President of the Student Assembly.

Terms of reference

They set out the purpose and remit of the committee. They outline which parent committee it reports to and if any sub-committees report to it.


UK Research and Innovation


UK Visa and immigration


A student undertaking a first degree. Students are referred to as graduates when they have completed their degree.


At Goldsmiths, the Warden is the most senior member of staff. They lead the College and represent it internally and externally.

Widening participation

Encouraging and supporting people who have the ability, motivation and potential to thrive at university, but who come from groups that are currently under-represented in higher education.