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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The board-president relationship in three British Columbia community colleges Levin, John S.


The issue of governance in institutions of higher education has attracted considerable attention in the North American literature. While much has been published concerning the respective roles of the president and the governing board in managing the affairs of colleges and universities, limited attention has been given to the relationship which exists between the two parties. Furthermore, while the importance of the relationship is acknowledged, there has been no systematic research to determine reasons for such a claim. This study examines the board-president relationship in three community colleges in the province of British Columbia and ascertains reasons for its importance. The research framework on which the study is based consists of three major components, the determinants of the board-president relationship, its effects, and the characteristics of the relationship itself. The literature on boards and presidents implies that any relationships which do exist fall into three distinct dimensions, formal, operational, and personal. The three dimensions of the relationship are used in this study as a focal point and conceptual centre around which research questions are designed. The method involves a qualitative-interpretive design which generates both documentary, factual data and perceptual data from two major sources. The sources are institutional and legal documents and in-depth interviews with the presidents and board members from the three institutions. The study largely reveals an understanding of the relationship from the perspective of the participants. The conclusions which emerge from this investigation indicate that the board-president relationship at each college displays characteristics which identify the relationship with the articulated goals, philosophy, and values of each institution and reflects its development. Moreover, as perceived by the participants, the relationship exerts important influence upon the image of the college with both its internal and external community, while reinforcing the values and philosophy of the institution. The research provides a beginning for the development of theory in the area of leadership and management in institutions of post-secondary education. It also offers insights for practitioners concerned with the improvement of their effectiveness in governance, specifically in the colleges in British Columbia. The study has moved beyond current scholarship on the board-president relationship; it has also prepared the groundwork for further research by posing several hypothetical questions which arise from this investigation.

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