Codes for building an ethical college

There are some general codes and statements that are widely respected and have status and general applicability. They are therefore a useful part of an organisational ethics policy.

Some key ones for the higher and further education sectors are:

1.  Rigour, respect and responsibility: A universal ethical code for scientists
From the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, this is short and focuses on three key values:

Rigour, honesty and integrity
espect for life, the law and the public good
Responsible communication: listening and informing

Although it relates primarily to scientific endeavour, it is of value more widely, especially in a research context.

2.  The Committee on Standards in Public Life
An Advisory Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by the Cabinet Office. The Chair and Members are appointed by the Prime Minister. Its seven principals (The Nolan Principles) are widely adopted (and currently under review):

Selflessness : Integrity : Objectivity : Accountability : Openness : Honesty : Leadership

3. Quality Assurance Agency’s Quality Code
The QAA works to to safeguard quality and standards in UK universities and colleges, so that students have the best possible learning experience. Its code states that:

  • All students are treated fairly, equitably and as individuals.
  • Students have the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of their learning experience.
  • Students are properly and actively informed at appropriate times of matters relevant to their programmes of study.
  • All policies and processes relating to study and programmes are clear and transparent.
  • Strategic oversight of academic standards and academic quality is at the highest level of academic governance of the provider.
  • All policies and processes are regularly and effectively monitored, reviewed and improved.
  • Sufficient and appropriate external involvement exists for the maintenance of academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities.
  • Staff are supported, enabling them in turn to support students’ learning experiences.

4.  Six Core Principles of Good Governance
Published by the Independent Commission on Good Governance in Public Services, January 2005, available on the website of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation  or at the Office for Public Management .

This is a very useful document, setting out the importance of providing quality and value, and of promoting organsiational values and putting them into practice. It calls for transparent and well-informed decisions – and underlines the importance of good quality information and support to enable this. The final principle (section 6) is key to corporate social responsibility:

“Good governance means engaging stakeholders and making accountability real:

  • Understanding formal and informal accountability relationships;
  • Taking an active and planned approach to dialogue with accountability to the public;
  • Taking an active and planned approach to responsibility to staff;
  • Engaging effectively with institutional stakeholders.”

5.  UK Corporate Governance Code
Published by FRC Financial Reporting Council. The Code is for any kind of board (not just public sector) and has a ‘comply or explain’ status. A detailed explanation of the code-based approach, and how it fits into the UK’s overall regulatory framework, can be found in The UK Approach to Corporate Governance. FRC codes are usually updated every two years.

6. Guide for Members of Higher Education Governing Bodies in the UK
From the Committee of University Chairmen.


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