An academic dean is a college or university administrator who leads a school within the institution. Academic deans give their school direction and vision. They are in charge of guiding and directing the faculty at the school, as well as representing the school, its students, and its faculty to the rest of the campus.
Academic deans report to a vice president or provost in most institutions, though in some schools, a dean may report directly to the president. Deans of academic institutions are in charge of department chairs and faculty. Associate and assistant deans, as well as support staff in areas like outreach, development, and student services, usually assist an academic dean.
A dean of academics has a different role than a dean of students. The dean of students acts as a link between students and faculty, and he or she may also be involved in student services. An academic dean rarely interacts with students outside of class and in advisory roles for student groups or as an adjudicator in cases of academic misconduct.
Academic deans are in charge of the school’s finances. They establish policies and procedures for the entire school as well as its various departments. They decide on the number and type of employees in a school and are in charge of hiring new faculty. Many deans serve as mentors to faculty who are pursuing tenure.
An academic dean, particularly an associate or assistant dean, may be in charge of the school’s fundraising efforts. Deans are almost always involved in multiple committees on campus and in the community. They could take part in community outreach and develop relationships with local businesses and agencies.
Most deans are expected to teach at least one class each semester in addition to their administrative responsibilities. Most people are tenured the time they are appointed to a deanship, but they may still be expected to research and publish. Some deans shift their research and publishing focus to more administrative topics, or shift their research role to that of a supervisor.
Almost all academic deans in colleges and universities have a terminal degree — usually a doctorate — in their fields and have taught at the college level for many years. A master’s degree is acceptable for deans at some schools and in some fields. Most have earned tenure after years of teaching, researching, publishing, serving on committees and boards, and being evaluated their peers and administrators on a regular basis. They are usually appointed from within the faculty, but they can also be hired directly.