An Investigation into the Roles of Trustee Board Members of Students’ Unions Within Wales

  • Daniel Taylor

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Against a backdrop of legislative and regulatory change in the mid 2000’s and a focus of the media on negative tales of no-platforming, poor leadership and toxic environments, the good governance of students’ unions is of great importance. With a lack of research into students’ unions generally and even fewer studies focused specifically on their governance, this thesis investigates the roles of trustee board members within students’ unions, all registered charities, in Wales. Primarily concentrating on the prescribed and perceived roles of the members of the trustee boards, the research further explores the relationships between key actors within the governance of students’ unions and potential tensions that may arise between them.

Adopting a multiple case study approach, this inductive, qualitative investigation uses documentary analysis, along with interviews and focus groups with three different categories of trustee board members and their senior staff members within the three case study organisations based in higher education institutions across Wales. Existing theory in relation to charity and non-profit organisations is considered in the context of the case study organisations, with comparisons drawn.

The research uncovers a unique governance structure, related to other types of charities, with an intertwined set of reliance and trust relationships between trustees themselves and with their senior staff members, to enable trustees to perform their prescribed roles. Key findings such as the reliance on the senior staff members, the dual role performed by sabbatical trustees and the short tenure of student and sabbatical trustees provide an insight into a distinctive type of charity and emphasise potential issues for the good governance of these
organisations. The issues highlighted in the research lead to potential implications for students’ unions governance, their regulators, and the charity sector in general.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJennifer Law (Supervisor) & Catherine Farrell (Supervisor)

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