Like all Oxford Colleges, Worcester is an independent self-governing institution established by Royal Charter within the University of Oxford. The College is a charity, and members of the Governing Body (the Provost and the 48 Governing Body Fellows) are legally its Trustees. As part of the process of registering with the Charities Commission in 2011 a number of changes to the College’s Statutes (which are available online) were made.
The Governing Body is chaired by the Provost (Professor Sir Jonathan Bate). Its membership comprises all Official Fellows (Tutorial and Non-Tutorial) and Professorial Fellows (persons whose posts are Statutory Professorships of the University or are similarly ranked by it, and are permanently attached to this College). There are four categories of Fellowship – Research, Supernumerary, Emeritus and Honorary – of which the first two may be elected to membership of the Governing Body. At present the Governing Body has 33 Official Tutorial Fellows (of which 11 have the title of Professor), 1 Official Non-Tutorial Fellow, 6 Professorial Fellows, and 8 Supernumerary Fellows (of whom 4 have the title of Professor) as members.
The Governing Body has regular meetings each term. In addition, the Governing Body is serviced by a range of committees and much of the business will arise from their reports and/or recommendations. As Trustees, Governing Body Fellows are required to take an active part in the governance of the College, and are expected to attend meetings where major questions of College policy are decided. If a Governing Body Fellow is unable to attend, apologies should be conveyed via the Secretary to the Governing Body.
Fellows (or other members of the Senior Common Room via a Fellow) may raise matters of academic, financial or domestic concern through these committees or, if urgent, at a meeting of the Governing Body itself. In addition to raising issues through the committee structures, any member of College may also discuss concerns, in confidence, with the Vice-Provost or Provost.
It is important for Fellows, and indeed anyone in receipt of income or benefits-in-kind from the College, to be sensitive to situations in which there may be, or be perceived by others to be, an actual or potential conflict of interest between the College as an institution and the Fellow or other members of a Governing Body Committee. The Provost or the Fellow chairing a Committee must be alerted to any such situation: the conflicted member may be required to refrain from speaking, voting, or even attending when a particular item is under discussion. It is the practice of the Governing Body for Fellows to go out of the room when something which relates to them as an individual is to be discussed or decided, even where this is wholly or largely formal (e.g. the granting of sabbatical leave to which the Fellow is entitled under University regulations). As of the 2012-13 academic year, all Governing Body and Committee meetings begin with an opportunity for the declaration of interests. All new Governing Body Fellows are provided with a copy of the College Statutes and are responsible for reading them and acting in accordance with them.