David Lock: The Importance Of Serving With Integrity

The master of the WCCSA discusses his time helping to rebuild higher education systems after conflict in Iraq and Libya, and the work of the WCCSA in supporting the company secretarial profession

David Lock FCIS is master of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (WCCSA), one of the modern livery companies of the City of London.

He has spent his career in higher education administration, with the Universities of Huddersfield and Hull, before moving on to establish and lead the British University in Dubai, and is now secretary general of the Magna Carta Observatory.

Are there unique governance challenges for the higher education sector?

The main challenge comes from their democracy. The stronger universities in the world are autonomous and have academic freedom, but at the same time have to serve their stakeholders and comply with the law.

It is the governance function that enables that to happen in a secure way. It is the democracy, and the expected transparency, which can make it more challenging to make difficult decisions in universities.

With transparency, there is a very difficult balance to be struck. As a member of the leadership team of a university, you want to reach decisions that are right for all of your stakeholders, which is a challenging thing to do. Where people's jobs are involved, it is sometimes difficult to give as much information as people would like, as early as they would like to have it.

Total transparency could compromise the consideration process. Meaningful and honest consultation with all of the stakeholders involved is a better solution. I have been involved in the making of some quite difficult decisions and have found that this approach works.

You have led higher education work in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya. Can you talk us through this?

The common feature in all the countries is they wanted to improve their higher education systems, and in the case of Libya and Iraq, they wanted to rebuild their higher education systems after conflict.

In Libya, all the leaders of the universities that had been loyal to Colonel Gadhafi had either left the country after his death, or were dead themselves.

A number of universities had been closed for two years and the need existed to build sufficient leadership capacity for the universities to reopen and to start to rebuild and deliver full benefit to Libya. The British Council was asked to assist with this and I was asked to design and...

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