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Defining Administrators and Administrative Structure

Policy Information

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Effective Date: 
June 24, 1996
Last Revised Date: 
July, 2023
Policy Number: 
Responsible Unit: 
University Analytics and Institutional Research

Purpose and Summary

To provide consistent definitions of University administrative structure and of administrative positions over time and across reporting units.


"Academic Departments": ABOR policy (ABOR 2-222) identifies various types of units on the basis of whether they “have separate identification in the university operating budget.” This policy identifies Academic Departments as units that offer degrees and coursework in a field of study; have assigned faculty and staff; are responsible for all major teaching, research, and public service in a field of study; and have separate identification in the University operating budget. No other definition of department is provided. ABOR also requires that we track, via the budget process, programs below the department level, such as centers, institutes, laboratories, and bureaus.

"Administrators": ABOR Policy (ABOR 6-101.B.3) identifies administrators as individuals involved in a number of planning, organizing, directing, controlling, and evaluating activities of major units and gives as examples “vice presidents, deans, academic department heads, and other positions as determined by the Board.” This policy also seems to include nonacademic administrators who have a “direct role in planning, organizing, directing, evaluating, and controlling a major university function” as determined by the President of the University.

To achieve reporting consistency, both internally and externally, and to further clarify the interpretation of ABOR definitions, the University also has adopted the definition of administrator used by Equal Employment Opportunity and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems of the U.S. Department of Education (EEO/IPEDS). In this definition, administrators are those whose assignments “customarily and regularly require the incumbent to exercise discretion and independent judgment and to direct the work of others” and who head a unit at the level of department or higher (see Appendix).



  1. Administrative positions are:
    1. Academic and nonacademic positions whose principal responsibility includes or involves directing the management of one or more department(s)/equivalent(s), college(s), or larger unit(s) in the hierarchical structure of the University. Assistant and associate dean and assistant and associate director positions whose responsibilities fit this definition are identified as administrative positions.
    2. Those filled by presidential or executive-level appointment whose scope of responsibility is University-wide. These include such positions as the Affirmative Action Officer, Associate Vice President for State Relations, and Assistants to the President, as applicable.
    3. Those that derive such status from an applicable law or regulation.
  2. An administrator is any person appointed or assigned full-time to an administrative position. A list will be maintained of those classified under 1b and 1c above and will be reviewed annually.
  3. New administrative positions can be created only with the approval of the Provost or the Senior Vice President for Business Affairs.
  4. Administrator count will be the distinct number of people incumbent in all administrative positions (i.e., each person will be counted only once regardless of the number of administrative positions held). The count will include one acting or interim administrator for each vacant position.
  5. Persons in all other managerial positions will be categorized as faculty or managerial professionals as appropriate.


A department or equivalent unit is one with budgetary, planning, reporting, and managerial responsibilities for funds, people, and programs. Departments report to a unit other than another department. Departments usually have more than one program or section and may include subunits like centers, laboratories, sections, offices, or bureaus. For example, an academic department may have several degree, research, and service programs; a support department may have several sections or offices with different responsibilities. The EEO/IPEDS definition also specifies that departments have a significant proportion of professional employees rather than or in addition to technical, clerical, craft, and service/maintenance employees.

  1. The office unit of an administrator above the level of department, e.g., a dean’s or vice provost’s or vice president’s office, will be identified as a department if it has a separate budgetary identity.
  2. Units that lack one or more of the above characteristics may still be departments if they are being phased in or out, or are at a level and in a position where corresponding units are defined as departments. Such identifications will be reviewed annually and departmental status changed as required by ABOR policy.
  3. The following are not departments unless the unit also meets the definition of department for other reasons:
    1. Centers, laboratories, bureaus, offices, committees, interdisciplinary programs, and grant-funded programs either within departments or conducting cross-department activities
    2. Units or offices without a permanent budget managed at the discretion of the unit or office
    3. Units or offices with advisory, ombudsman, or representational responsibilities rather than programmatic ones; e.g., an office representing a particular group, an office that advises or provides staff functions for a senior officer
  4. Departments in similar academic areas are generally organized into colleges headed by deans. Departments/equivalents in the support, service, and administrative areas generally are headed by a director, aggregated into divisions, and managed by a deputy or associate vice president or related titles. Other departmental/equivalents, such as Museums, Cultural Affairs, Contracts Office, Space Management, University Instrument Shop, KUAT Communications, University Teaching Center, and Health and Wellness Services, report directly to a senior vice president, vice president, or vice provost.
  5. Schools are generally similar to departments but are larger and usually have multiple sections representing different academic programs, etc. They are headed by a director.
  6. ABOR policy on the creation of departments will apply to departments as defined in this policy. It does not apply to the budgetary units identified in FRS/PSOS with a separate department number unless the FRS/PSOS department is also an administrative one.
  7. All departments or equivalent units will be classified in the system as being one of the following six types based on their primary function and position in the structure:
    1. Academic: Offers academic courses and has regular faculty.
    2. Administration: Role is administration of other units, e.g., dean’s or provost’s offices.
    3. Academic Support: Provides support of academic programs, e.g., libraries, museums.
    4. Service: Provides services mainly to off-campus customers, e.g., extension, ICA, Cultural Affairs.
    5. Student Support: Provides services mainly to current students or prospective students.
    6. Institutional Support: Provides overhead services to the institution as a whole.

Non-departmental Units and Programs

Non-departmental units and programs are of two major types:

  1. Budgetary Units having a Financial Reporting System and Personnel Services Operating System (FRS/PSOS) unit number and funding faculty, professionals, or staff but not meeting the definition of a department. Examples include many centers, institutes, laboratories, offices, sections, or bureaus. The heads of budgetary units will be categorized as managerial professionals.
  2. Programs without a budget unit that defines the program, for instance, because most resources for the program come from outside the program. These programs may operate within a department, such as degree and research programs, or outside such as interdisciplinary programs or centers. Some programs have affiliated budgetary units, for instance, Applied Mathematics. Some centers, institutes, laboratories, offices, sections, or bureaus fall in this category. Heads of programs will be faculty, professionals, or managerial professionals as appropriate, and not all programs have heads, e.g., a degree program in a department.

Organizational Change

Organizational changes (creation, consolidation, transfer, or termination of units or programs and responsibilities) are considered official once recorded by the office responsible for the University roll-up structure and the codings for administrators. The date of the change will be the date on which authority for the program, department, or other unit(s) is assigned or reassigned.

To avoid confusion and reporting inconsistency, organizational changes will be reported as effective the July 1 closest to the actual change date (e.g., change takes place Sept. 6 but will be recorded as effective the previous July 1). If all parties agree and an overriding need for a different reporting date exists, then the reporting date can be the July 1 not closest to the change in authority date.

Business Rules

The following business rules provide a basis for identifying the university administrative structure and those people recognized as administrators under the previous definitions.

  1. Administrators will be categorized in three groups:
    1. Executive-level administrators, i.e., president, vice presidents, and vice provosts.
    2. College- and division-level administrators, e.g., deans, assistant and associate deans, associate vice presidents, comptroller. This group can be subdivided by area of responsibility. College administrators are those with responsibilities for and within a particular college; University administrators are those in support, service, and administrative (SSA) units whose functions are University-wide. Some college administrators also have University responsibilities and hence are also vice provosts.
    3. Departmental-level administrators, i.e., department heads and directors of both college and SSA departments.
  2. Because both a person and a position can have more than one title, administrators cannot be defined by title alone. Administrative titles do not stay with a person when s/he leaves the position. In this respect, administrative titles differ from faculty rank.
  3. Only the title attaching to the unit and part of a position defined as administrative will be considered administrative. (An administrative position does not always equate to a Position Control Number [PCN] in PSOS, and a PCN may have multiple titles, not all of which are administrative. Thus, people holding more than one title can have both administrative and non-administrative titles; e.g., Dean of the College of . . . and Professor of . . . ).
  4. The following types of positions or titles will be considered professional rather than administrative:
    1. (Special) assistants or associates to administrative positions and other similar positions.
    2. All department managers within departments below the level of department head.
    3. Directors of centers, committees, interdisciplinary programs, grant-funded programs, and other programs that are programmatic rather than departmental in character.
    4. Assistant and associate directors at the department/equivalent unit level or below.
    5. Assistant or associate deans for development and public relations activities or that serve in counseling, advising, or ombudsman capacities without other administrative responsibilities.
    6. Those that do not supervise professional employees.
  5. The EMPLM_CLASS “A” code in PSOS and the Appointed Personnel System shall apply only to positions and titles that meet the definition of administrator as defined in this policy.
  6. When an administrative position is eliminated, the position will be reclassified as a professional vacant position unless it is being reassigned for a specific purpose. e.g., faculty or classified staff; it will cease being designated as administrative.
  7. In addition to head counts, administrators will be counted by FTE to reflect positions that are funded at less than 1 FTE or are split funded with non-administrative positions.
  8. No organizational change will be complete until the appropriate senior vice president has approved it and the change has been recorded in the office responsible for the University roll-up structure and the codings for administrators. Procedures for recording organizational changes (creation, consolidation, transfer, or termination of units or programs and responsibilities) will record at least the following information for all changes:
    1. Name of the unit and person responsible (administrator or other head if any)
    2. Name of the unit and administrator the unit will report to
    3. Type of change: creation, consolidation, transfer, or termination of unit or program and responsibilities and whether the change results in a change of type of unit, e.g., program to department, college to school, etc.
    4. Level of the unit, e.g., program, department, etc.
    5. Effective date of the change for administrative purposes.
    6. Effective date of the change for reporting purposes.
  9. The office responsible for the University roll-up structure and the codings for administrators will be notified of all changes in administrative assignment by copy of the PCF or such other means as the responsible offices shall devise to ensure that University documentation of administrators and organizational structure is complete and up-to-date.

Appendix: IPEDS Definition of Executive, Administrative & Managerial Occupational Activity

Executive, administrative, and managerial: A primary function or occupational activity category used to classify persons whose assignments require management of the institution, or a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof. Assignments require the performance of work directly related to management policies or general business operations of the institution, department, or subdivision. Assignments in this category customarily and regularly require the incumbent to exercise discretion and independent judgment. Included in this category are employees holding titles such as top executives; chief executives; general and operations managers; advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers; operations specialties managers; administrative services managers; computer and information systems managers; financial managers; human resources managers; purchasing managers; postsecondary education administrators such as presidents, vice presidents (including assistants and associates), deans (including assistants and associates) if their principal activity is administrative and not primarily instruction, research or public service, directors (including assistants and associates), department heads (including assistants and associates) if their principal activity is administrative and not primarily instruction, research or public service, assistant and associate managers (including first-line managers of service, production and sales workers who spend more than 80 percent of their time performing supervisory activities); engineering managers; food service managers; lodging managers; and medical and health services managers.

(Term used in the IPEDS HR survey component prior to 2012-13)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Glossary; available at

Revision History*

07/27/2023:  Revision date updated to reflect policy was reviewed without revisions at this time.

* Please note that sections titled Frequently Asked Questions, Sources, Related Information, and Revision History are provided solely for the convenience of users and are not part of the official University policy.

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