The Governance of Girton College

How new policy is passed.

The Governance of Girton College can best be described as “a self-governing body of scholars”, and as a result has several quirks designed to provide checks and control over College decisions. Understanding the Governance of Girton College is key to understanding how to solve the problems that the JCR aims to fix, for it is the most powerful system which the JCR can use.

Nonetheless, the complications of the whole system can make policy a rather slow matter.


Strategy Creation: College Council

The Governance of Girton College is rather complicated, courtesy of it being an 148 year old college. The last wholesale revision of the statutes were passed in 2009, with plans for an update following the 150th Anniversary celebrations. The easiest way in which to understand it is to separate it in terms of role, around strategy creation.

Council meets approximately every two weeks, and consists of 18 members, who are allocated as follows:

  • 4 ex officio staff members: the Mistress, the Vice-Mistress, the Bursar and the Senior Tutor.
  • 5 ex officio student members: The JCR President, The JCR Vice-President, The JCR Treasurer, The MCR President, and the MCR Vice-President
  • 9 fellows elected by Governing Body: three are elected each year, and serve for three years each.

In Unreserved Council, all members are expected to attend, and a certain group of observers are permitted to attend, including the Development Director and Heads of Departments. Reserved Council is the same as Unreserved Council, except that student members and observers are not permitted.

Each member of Council is also a designated Trustee of Girton College, making them legally responsible for Girton College, and legally obliged to act in the College’s best interests.


Council is the ultimate body for making decisions. As a result, it has tended to have excessive numbers of small papers, on minor issues, since there was little certainty over who had authority to approve small action. In order to combat this, a new Secretary to Council has been appointed in Lent Term 2017.

Since the start of Michaelmas Term 2017, Council focuses on making strategic decisions. Operational matters are assumed delegated to relevant departments. Each member has one vote on a matter, and is free to vote whichever way they want. Papers are passed on a simple majority, provided quorum is met. If the paper passes, it is then sent onto Augmented Council.

Council papers are confidential: however, as a public body, Girton College’s minutes of Unreserved Council are published. As of November 2017, there is a slight backlog, but this is being worked on.

Approving strategy: The Fellowship

Whenever a paper is passed by College Council, it is not confirmed to become College strategy. Instead, it must be approved by Augmented Council.

Augmented Council is a group of 20 fellows elected from the Governing Body, which consists of the entirety of the teaching fellowship and life fellows. Governing Body itself is a subset of the Fellowship as a whole, which includes myriad forms of fellowship, like honorary fellowship.

Augmented Council bears little similarity to College Council: it’s role is to approve strategy, not decide, and there is not necessarily any overlap in members of the two. For instance, student members have no chance of joining Augmented Council.

Augmented Council is a reserved council, meaning that its minutes are not published. If the Augmented Council passes the strategy or policy advocated by College Council, it is assumed to be College Policy. However, if the matter is particularly contentious and the decision made on the policy is felt to not represent the Fellowship, the matter can be passed to Governing Body as a whole.

If this is the case, six fellows can petition the Mistress with a request for a whole Governing Body vote under I.6 of the Girton College Statutes. For this to overrule Augmented Council, there must be a two-thirds majority in favour of the petition.