Who & What Is the Administration at a University? 

July 5, 2023 Watermark Insights

Who & What Is the Administration at a University? 

Administration is a vague term that encompasses many tasks and positions. Every industry uses administrators to organize and manage operations, but their specific tasks might change depending on the sector or group, including those at universities. 

What Is University Administration? 

Administration at universities and colleges helps plan, manage, organize, and execute campus activities. As a broad position, many schools have several administrative departments handling various functions essential for university life, from student admissions and enrollment to finances and budgeting. Administrative teams will include academic and nonacademic ventures working together to meet common interests for their students, faculty, and school boards. 

Who Are University Administrators? 

University administrators cover many positions. Each position helps maintain, manage, and improve campuses in unique ways, handling different aspects of university functions to keep meeting performance and governance standards. Understanding common and vital positions in administrative departments can help individuals determine who oversees various university operations and decisions. 

1. University Presidents

University presidents are the heads and representatives of the school, acting in the institution's best interests while handling many management and decision-making responsibilities. Their planning might be more strategic and support more sustainable performance because they have the whole university to consider. 

Presidents are one of the highest levels in the administrative hierarchies at universities, so they will work less with students and individual faculty and instead collaborate and report to school boards, governing bodies, donors, and the teams they oversee. 

2. Vice Presidents and Provosts 

Vice presidents work with and for university presidents while collaborating with and overseeing many specific other administrative and academic departments. Most universities have multiple vice presidents, with each one specializing in a different sector of management duties. For example, one vice president might handle the entirety of student affairs, overseeing administrative teams and making decisions relating to this part of campus life. 

Provosts are usually the primary vice president, and their specialties often lie in academic affairs. They will manage all academic and research activity, ensuring university decisions support student and faculty development and growth while reflecting university and state standards. 

3. College Deans 

College Deans

Many schools have multiple colleges under one university to organize fields of study together. Separate colleges allow schools to make various decisions and budgets to better benefit different fields of study, so students and faculty can optimize their university experiences. For example, most universities have a college of business, a college of science, and a college of liberal arts. These colleges organize students and faculty while streamlining applications for students who already know their majors. 

Deans are the administrators who manage individual colleges. They are often former or current professors, which gives them more insight into their college's interests and needs. They report to provosts and presidents to report on college performance and assist with decision-making. They might manage and oversee budget distribution and allocation for their specific college. Deans will oversee any individual departments within a college, from marketing teams to individual major departments. 

4. Department Heads 

At the lower levels of the hierarchy, department heads run their department and report to higher-ups. In universities, administrative departments can be academic or nonacademic because schools must function and meet student and faculty needs. Each college will have a department for different areas of study, including majors, minors, and graduate programs. Some other administrative departments might include: 

  • Financial teams. 
  • Admissions and enrollment. 
  • Student success. 
  • Campus activities and student life. 
  • Marketing and social media. 

Department heads have more control over the steps their teams take to meet university goals and outcomes, but they have less influence over overall decisions made by the president. For example, the president might want to increase applications from prospective students, so the marketing department head will determine the best strategies to attract more students. They choose how to best allocate and use resources and budgets given to them. Academic department heads may have teaching responsibilities on top of their administrative role.

Faculty vs. Administrators 

Universities have many units that manage and execute activities and services for students. However, there is a difference between the roles of faculty and administrators, which can help students and university employees determine who they should go to when they have a problem at their school. 

Administrators handle various functions related to planning, managing, organizing, and directing university initiatives in the best interest of their students, faculty, and investors. Many services they handle might directly help students, like academic affairs and tuition departments, while others serve them more indirectly, like through campus improvement and development efforts. 

Alternatively, faculty work directly with students and their studies. Academic departments are the ones managing academic courses. They outline degrees and requirements and offer research and resources. Many faculty departments contain other subunits, like labs, centers, and offices. They have many internal processes and budgets but report to the administration and must adhere to administrative policies. 

Faculty are usually professors, but the category includes adjunct and tenured professors. Because this group focuses on working with and teaching students, faculty also include teaching assistants (TAs). While faculty are essential university fixtures and help carry out campus-wide initiatives, they are not administrators. Instead, they work alongside administrators to provide policy feedback and handle field-specific processes. 

What Is the Standard Academic Administrative Hierarchy? 

When learning about university administrators, individuals must understand that there is a hierarchy in place. Issues and initiatives will move in certain directions, and different levels will handle different concerns. Likewise, each level will have varying power and specificity with their actions, helping the whole chain streamline activity and improvement. The standard administrative hierarchy from highest to lowest includes: 

  • Governing bodies: Public universities must adhere to state requirements to receive funding. To remain compliant, universities must report to and work with state boards and the governor. 
  • Board of trustees: Below the governing bodies, university administration must also report to their board. These individuals invest in the school and help establish a culture and values. They might include famous or successful alumni who want to give back to their school or state officials. Functions at this level involve approving budgets, setting general goals and strategies, and electing new presidents. 
  • Senior administration: This level includes university presidents, vice presidents, and provosts. Their plans are more generalized and widespread to appeal to the whole school's interests and markets. They will report to the board of trustees and governing bodies and handle bigger problems. 
  • Middle management: At the bottom of the hierarchy, middle management for universities includes deans, department chairs, directors, and any associates and assistants to these individuals and the vice presidents in senior management. Their goals and actions are more specified because they will work more in the best interest of their college or department, and they report to senior administration. 

Streamline University Decision-Making With Watermark 

Administrators across levels need the right tools to serve their institutions. Watermark provides solutions to drive innovation and streamline improvement efforts with a comprehensive data collection and analytics suite. Schools can build their suite around functions they want to boost data collection processes, from student success to curriculum evaluation

Watermark's centralized features increase visibility and accessibility, so your administrative teams can boost collaborative efforts across departments or hierarchy levels. Automatic updates ensure you always look at the most accurate and recent version of your data to drive stronger decisions that positively impact your institution. 

Request a demo today and discover how Watermark can transform your administrative tasks. 

Streamline University Decision-Making With Watermark

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