We know that transitioning into higher education can be a rough transition. Whether you are coming to UVU from the corporate world, the stay-at-home life, or even the student life, there is a lot of adjusting. Whether it’s learning the structure of approvals, adjusting to more or fewer deadlines, or working with a new type of team, the process can be easier when you know the basics of how a higher education institution works. Each university is different, so we will be basing our explanations of how things run at UVU. This page will go over the organizational structure of the University (university, college, department), the employee structure (VP, dean, manager, etc.), and definitions for common words used in higher education.

Organizational Structures

University Structure

The following chart shows how UVU is broken up into eight different divisions. Each division is overseen by a vice president, with associate vice presidents, directors, and managers leading departments within each division. Academic Affairs oversees our seven colleges, which each have multiple academic departments who are lead by department chairs.

Higher Education Definitions

Academic year: Annual period during which a student attends and receives formal instruction at a college or university. Typically from August to May. The academic year may be divided into semesters or trimesters. UVU is divided into semesters.

Administrative support (admin): Can either be assigned to a department or executive. They perform routine clerical and organizational tasks such as organizing files, onboarding new employees, scheduling appointments, purchasing, budgeting, and supporting employees in their assigned area.

Associate Vice Preisdent/Associate Provost: A university employee who oversees the strategic and administrative aspects of a department within a division. They report directly to a Vice President. 

Chief of Staff: The president’s right-hand individual acting as a confidante and advisor. The chief of staff’s role differs by university, but a common role would be providing a buffer between the president and the University Executive Council. At UVU, the Chief of Staff is also Executive Secretary to the Board of Trustees.

College/School: A smaller institution that offers undergraduate degrees, and UVU has eight colleges and schools.

Community college/junior college: Two-year schools that provide affordable postsecondary education as a pathway to a four-year degree. Community colleges usually offer a wide variety of options such as workforce development and skills training, English as a second language, and community enrichment programs.

Dean: The head of a college or school who is responsible for approving faculty, setting academic policies, overseeing the budget, and other administrative duties.

Department chair: A tenured faculty responsible for overseeing their department. They act as the primary spokesperson of the department’s faculty, administration, staff, and students. Department chairs are the essential link between the administration and department members. At UVU, this position doesn't have to be a tenured faculty member.

Department: A part of a division of the University that is either made up of faculty or support staff that give instruction in a particular field of study, (e.g, the Department of History and Political Science), or oversees a function of the University (e.g. Payroll).

Division: A part of the University overseen by a vice president. (e.g., People and Culture, Student Affairs, etc.).

First-Generation: A student whose parents/legal guardians did not finish a bachelor’s degree.

Fiscal Year: A year as reckoned for taxing and budgeting purposes. UVU’s runs from July 1-June 30.

Freshman/First-Year: Used interchangeably to describe someone who has earned between 0-30 credits.

General Counsel: The chief legal officer for the University who provides and oversees the provision of all legal services.

Junior: Used to describe someone who has earned between 61-90 credits.

Ombudsman: An official appointed to investigate students’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of authorities.

Open enrollment/admissions: The policy of accepting all students who have completed high school, regardless of their grades or test scores. UVU is an open-enrollment institution.

PBA (Planning, Budgeting and Assessment): An open, annual process to guide resource allocations.

Postgraduate: A student pursuing a degree above a bachelor’s degree (i.e., masters or doctorate).

President: The leader of the University whose goal is to advance the University’s mission and objectives. The president reports to the Board of Trustees and, on a statewide level, to the Board of Regents. The president collaborates with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders to define the vision and set the direction of the institution.

Private university: A postsecondary institution controlled by a private individual or a nongovernmental agency. A private institution is usually not supported primarily by public funds, and its programs are not operated by publicly elected or appointed officials.

Provost: The senior academic administrator who supervises and oversees all curricular, instructional, and research affairs.

Public university: A postsecondary institution that is supported mainly by public funds, and whose programs are operated by publicly elected or appointed officials. UVU is a public university.

Semester: Periods of study that divide the academic year into two equal segments of approximately 15-18 weeks each. Some schools also offer a shorter summer semester beyond the traditional academic year. UVU offers a summer semester split into two blocks.

Senior: Used to describe someone who has earned more than 90 credits.

Sophomore: Used to describe someone who has earned between 31-60 credits.

Tenure: A status offered to high-level faculty members at a college or university that allows them to stay permanently in their positions, after demonstrating a strong record of teaching and published research.

University: An institution made up of multiple colleges/schools (e.g., UVU has the Woodbury School of Business, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Education, etc.). Universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs.

Vice President: The vice presidents oversee a division of the University, and they are the key decision-maker for their respective division. They report directly to the president.

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