Journal Article

Strategic advisory boards – the emergence of shadow governance in universities?

April 19, 2021

International Journal of Leadership in Education, Theory and Practice

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Numerous universities throughout the world have established top-level advisory boards – informal bodies and councils that the institutional leadership may consult on issues perceived as important. Through a series of qualitative interviews with members of such entities as well as representatives of the institutions appointing them, the article sheds light on how strategic advisory bodies function, and how these entities frame and interact with the institutional leadership. We observe that strategic advisory boards represent a hybrid form of governance installing mutual dependencies between representatives of the boards and the institutional leadership – what we label as a kind of controlled collegiality. While university leadership acts as a gatekeeper controlling access to these boards, once members are nominated the power relations between the actors, become more equal. The study highlights the importance of strategic advisory boards as new elements in higher education governance – working in the shadow of more formal governance arrangements. Here, we argue that the establishment of these boards can be interpreted as a re-introduction of a collegial element in universities exposed to a number of reforms resulting in more streamlined and managerial governance structures.

Bjørn Stensaker
Jens Jungblut
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Publication Details


Informa UK Limited

Date of Publication

April 19, 2021

ESRI Series

Journal Article


© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any med- ium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.