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NUS Good Governance Code of Practice Explained

The NUS Good Governance Code of Practice contains 7 high level principles which apply to all students’ unions.

The quality mark is linked to existing standards to prevent duplication and from part of the evidence for Quality Students’ Unions

7 High Level Principles

  1. Democracy
  2. Openness & Accountability
  3. Clarity about the role of the Board
  4. Effective Trustees & Board Performance
  5. Delivering Organisational Purpose
  6. Exercising Control
  7. Behaving with Integrity

These principles link directly to the national ‘Governance Code of Practice for the Voluntary and Community Sector’, which is designed to provide top level guidance to the entire voluntary and community sector.

Principles 2-7 match those featured in the Voluntary and Community Sector Code of Practice. NUS has added the principle of Democracy which is particularly relevant to the students’ union sector. NUS has also furnished its Code of Practice with a number of compliance statements, that demonstrate how the high level principles can be applied to practice in a students’ union context.

Interactive hub of guidance

The NUS Good Governance Code of Practice is web based and acts as an interactive hub of information and guidance which students’ unions can use to improve their governance arrangements.

Each compliance statement has an ibutton attached to it which provides further explanation and links through to more detailed information about each compliance statement. The ibuttons also provide links to additional guidance and examples of shared practice from other students’ unions.

Measure your students’ union’s performance

The website provides the opportunity for students’ unions to complete a self-assessment, which acts as a tool for students’ unions to measure their governance arrangements against the code. This provides students’ unions with the chance to recognise and record where they are able to demonstrate good practice in their governance and to highlight any areas that need improvement. The Code of Practice also provides a framework for generating ideas for development.

Generate a report

The website will automatically generate a report containing their results for students’ unions that complete the self-assessment. Where good practice is in place the students’ union can use the self-assessment report to demonstrate to key stakeholders that the students’ union is performing effectively.

If the results of the assessment demonstrate that their governance requires further development, the report will highlight the areas that need attention in accordance with the level of priority they have assigned. It will also collate their ideas for development so that they can be easily used to generate an action plan.

Students’ unions will be able to download copies of their report and share it with trustees and key stakeholders. NUS can work with unions to develop plans for their improvement based on these findings.

Working Group

It is advisable for students’ unions to set up a working group to feed into the self-assessment process, including Officers, Trustees and members of staff. Having input from a number of interested parties is likely to enrich the process. Members of the group will be able to contribute their ideas and provide assistance with any follow-up work that is identified as a result of the assessment process.

It is important to identify a named person who is prepared to facilitate the working group and take the lead in completing the online self-assessment.

Getting the most from the self-assessment

In order to gain the most value from undertaking the self-assessment, it is important that those undertaking the self-assessment are honest about the current governance arrangements of your students’ union and are creative in thinking of ideas development. Fully achieving against the Code of Practice may take some time. It is important that it is not simply seen as a ‘tick box’ exercise.

Keep in mind that the ultimate aim is to achieve excellence with regards to your governance, not to simply gain great score. The self-assessment is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Fully achieving against the Code of Practice is fully achieving the governance that helps your students’ union to grow, develop and flourish into the organisation you aspire it to be.