Dean (education)

Dean is a title employed in academic administrations such as colleges or universities for a person with significant authority over a specific academic unit, over a specific area of concern, or both. Deans are common in private preparatory schools, and occasionally found in middle schools and high schools as well.


A "dean" (Latin decanus) was originally the head of a group of ten soldiers or monks. Eventually an ecclesiastical dean became the head of a group of canons or other religious groups.

When the universities grew out of the cathedral and monastery schools, the title of dean was used for officials with various administrative duties.



In Bulgarian universities, a dean is the head of a faculty, which may include several academic departments. Every faculty unit of university or academy. The Dean can appoint his deputies: a vice dean of university work and vice dean of science activity.


In a Canadian university or a college, a dean is typically the head of a faculty, which may include several academic departments. Typical positions include Dean of Arts, Dean of Engineering, Dean of Science and Dean of Business. Many universities also have a Dean of Graduate Studies, responsible for work at the postgraduate level in all parts of the university.

The job description for deans at the University of Waterloo is probably typical, and reads in part, "The dean of a faculty is primarily a university officer, serving in that capacity on the senate, appropriate major committees and on other university bodies. As university officer, the dean has the dual role of making independent judgments on total university matters and representing the particular faculty's policies and points of view. The dean should oversee the particular faculty's relations with other faculties to ensure that they are harmonious and serve the total university's objectives. The dean will report directly to the vice president, academic and provost."[1]

There may be associate deans responsible to the dean for particular administrative functions. McGill University also uses the title of pro-dean to refer to the ad-hoc officer responsible for administering a PhD thesis defence. They serve as the direct representative of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and are responsible for the defence being handled in strict correspondence with the university regulations.[2]

Some universities also have a dean of students, responsible for aspects of welfare and discipline and serving as an advocate for students within the institution.

United Kingdom and Ireland

In some universities in the United Kingdom the term dean is used for the head of a faculty, a collection of related academic departments. Examples include Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Similar usage is found in Australia and New Zealand.

In collegiate universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, each college may have a dean who is responsible for discipline. An interview with the dean as a result of misbehaviour is referred to as a being deaned. The dean may also, or instead, be responsible for the running of the college chapel. At Queens' College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge, for example, the posts of Dean of College and Dean of Chapel are separate;[3][4] likewise at Trinity College, Dublin, the posts of Senior and Junior Deans (charged with the discipline of Junior and Senior members respectively) are distinct from the Deans of Residence (who organise worship in the college chapel).At Oxford the Dean of the Cathedral is the head of Christ Church College .

The University of Durham also has a Dean of Colleges, who is chosen from the various college principals and masters and takes a parallel role to the faculty deans in university-wide debate. There are also Deans of Durham Law School and Durham University Business School.

Each of the colleges of the University of Lancaster has a Dean in charge of student discipline.

United States

Higher education

The term and position of dean is prevalent in American higher education. Although usage differs from one institution to another, the title is used in two principle ways:

  • A dean is usually the head of a significant collection of departments within a university (e.g., "dean of the downtown campus", "dean of the college of arts and sciences", "dean of the school of medicine"), with responsibilities for approving faculty hiring, setting academic policies, overseeing the budget, fundraising, and other administrative duties. Such a dean is usually a tenured professor from one of the departments but gives up most teaching and research activities upon assuming the deanship.
  • Other senior administrative positions in higher education may also carry the title of dean (or a lesser title such as associate dean or assistant dean). For example, many colleges and universities have a position known as "dean of students", who is in charge of student affairs, and a "dean of the faculty", who serves as the faculty's voice in the school's day-to-day administration.
Professional schools

Almost every American law school, medical school, divinity school, or other professional school is part of a university, and so refers to its highest-ranking administrator as a dean. Most have several assistant or associate deans as well (such as an associate dean of academics or an associate dean of students), as well as a select few vice deans.

The American Bar Association regulations on the operation of law schools, which must be followed for such an institution to receive and maintain ABA accreditation, define the role of the law school dean. These regulations specify that "A law school shall have a full-time dean, selected by the governing board or its designee, to whom the dean shall be responsible."[5] Thus, a law school dean may not simply be a professor selected by fellow professors, nor even by the president of the university.

Similar standards exist with respect to medical school deans. Specifically, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which accredits medical schools, thereby making them eligible for federal grants and state licensure, sets forth the operative conditions.[6] LCME regulations require that the "chief official of the medical school, who usually holds the title 'dean,' must have ready access to the university president or other university official charged with final responsibility for the school, and to other university officials as are necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the dean's office."[7] The LCME further require that the dean "must be qualified by education and experience to provide leadership in medical education, scholarly activity, and care of patients"[8] and that "[t]he dean and a committee of the faculty should determine medical school policies."[9]

Secondary education

The term or office of dean is much less common in American secondary education. Although most high schools are led by a principal or headmaster, a few (particularly private preparatory schools) refer to their chief authority as a dean. In large schools or some boarding schools there may be a dean of men or boys, and a dean of women or girls, or each year (freshman, sophomore, etc.) may have a dean. Some junior high schools and high schools have a teacher or administrator referred to as a dean who is in charge of student discipline and to some degree administrative services.

See also


  1. "Policy 45 – The Dean of a Faculty". Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  2. "Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies - Doctoral Oral Defence". Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  3. "Chapel and Services - Queens' College Cambridge". Archived from the original on 17 October 2013.
  4. "College Officers - Jesus College Cambridge". Archived from the original on 16 February 2017.
  5. "ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools, Standard 206(a)" (PDF).
  6. "LCME Accreditation Standards (with annotations". June 2008. Archived from the original on 12 June 2002. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
  7. IS-8.
  8. IS-10.
  9. FA-12.

Further reading

  • Buller, Jeffrey L, The Essential Academic Dean: A Practical Guide to College Leadership, ISBN 0-470-18086-2
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