Scholars of higher education have developed a variety of multi-dimensional models of organizational behavior that also shed considerable light on college and university structure and process. Multi-dimensional models seek to explain organizational behavior across institutional types, and in various institutional activities. The models vary somewhat in the number of dimensions incorporated, from J.
Victor Baldridge's three dimensions bureaucratic, collegial, and political and Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal's four-cornered frame structural, human resource, political, and symbolic to Robert Birnbaum's five dimensions bureaucratic, collegial, political, anarchical, and cybernetic. These models are quite helpful in thinking about organizational structure and process within colleges and universities.
The same institution may evidence a bureaucratic, hierarchical decision-making process in its central administration, and a collegial process in its academic senate. It is a combination of organizational structure and process that shapes college and university behavior.
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Public and private colleges and universities of all types incorporate key authority structures, including a governing board, a president or chancellor, a cohort of administrative leaders, and an academic senate. In public institutions these core organizational entities collaborate with such external authorities as state and federal political leaders, community organizations, and members of the public, as well as business interests and philanthropic foundations.
These external organizations routinely interact with and shape the policies and procedures of the university's internal organizational structures. The degree of uniformity in private and public college and university organizational structures has been shaped by the nature of demands on the postsecondary system since the mid-twentieth century. Although the key governance structures of colleges and universities were present prior to the turn of the twentieth century, the full scope of the university's multifaceted organizational structure, most scholars agree, was not realized until after the rise of the research university, in the wake of World War II.
In then-president of the University of California system, Clark Kerr, described the postwar American university as a multiversity. The term captured the increasingly complex organizational and governance structures required to negotiate its ever-expanding task environment. A university's governing board, also known as the trustees, regents, or board of visitors, possesses fundamental legal authority over the university. The authority of the governing board is vested in it by the state wherein the school resides or, particularly in the case of older, private institutions, by legally binding royal or colonial charters.
Both public and private governing boards are generally constituted of citizen trustees. In the public case those trustees are often political appointees who serve as a fundamental link between the institution and state and national political structures.
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In the United States the tradition of lay oversight of colleges and universities can be traced to the founding of Harvard College in Subsequent private colleges adopted this form of governance, which the U. Supreme Court deemed constitutional in its Dartmouth College decision of Public colleges and universities followed suit, although on the public side the role of governors in trustee appointments and the key role of legislative funding in institutional development has meant that the states play a central role in the governance of the institutions.
The federal government has influenced the organization of higher education primarily through legislation—the Morrill Acts, the Higher Education Acts, and the G. Bill, for instance—that reinforced decentralized governance and, hence, the authority of institutional governing boards at both public and private institutions. As John Millet noted, "It has long been evident that it is the state governments rather than the federal government that carry the primary authority and responsibility for higher education in the United States" p. Governing board members at public institutions typically arrive at the trustee table by one of four paths: direct appointment by the governor; ex-officio appointment; gubernatorial appointment subject to approval of the state legislature; and less frequently, election by popular vote.
Public university board members represent the citizens of the state and the terms and conditions of their service are often defined by institutional charter or state constitution. Private boards are generally self-perpetuating, with new trustees chosen by the membership of the standing board. While private colleges and universities benefit considerably from public subsidies and support, private boards are not subject to the same degree of external scrutiny or intervention as are public boards. The formal responsibilities of university governing boards are significant even as they are few in number.
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They include preservation of the university charter; institutional performance evaluations; fundraising; liaison with external agencies and political bodies; budget approval; oversight of campus policies and investment strategies; and, perhaps most important, hiring and evaluating the ongoing performance of the university president.
Because of their visibility, symbolic importance, and control over policies with significant political salience, public university boards became subject to increasing challenges from a variety of interests in the last two decades of the twentieth century. These challenges were accompanied by demands for non-partisan board appointments and trustees that are more representative of the broader society, as well as calls for increased scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest.
Boards were also challenged by governors and legislators concerned about issues ranging from rising costs to faculty ideology. A response to the heightened pressures on governing boards was a push for improved trustee education programs in several states in the pursuit of more open and effective governance processes. Given its myriad responsibilities and powers, a strong argument can be made that the board is the most powerful governing agent of the modern university.
The liaison between a postsecondary institution and its governing board is the highest ranking executive officer, a president or chancellor.
The president provides overall leadership to the institution and presides over its academic and administrative bureaus. The president generally works closely with a provost, who is responsible for academic affairs, and a chief financial officer, who oversees the institution's fiduciary operations.
The president serves as the lead fundraiser, and as a key representative of the university and its academic community to external agencies and actors. Presidential duties include fostering a positive public image of the institution as a site of higher learning, maintaining a close relationship with the institutional governing board to further the president's agenda, and forging points of common cause and agreement with the entire university community and its constituents.
Since World War II the job of university president has become considerably more complex, and in many ways more constrained. Presidential authority has been eroded as boards and external actors have gained more legitimate roles in university governance. Presidential satisfaction has declined, and the average presidential tenure is shorter than before World War II.
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No responsibility consumes the modern-day president's time and energy more than his or her role as the institution's principal fundraiser, a task made especially difficult because it requires extensive time away from the institution. While presidential fundraising has been a function of private universities for centuries, the emergence of significant public university fundraising in the s and s is a major development. Fueled by decreasing state and federal support in recent years, public universities have been forced to take on a more significant share of their own funding, with development playing a major role in this process.
The formal governing body of the faculty at the institutional level is the academic senate, a body generally comprised of tenured and tenure-track faculty from the various disciplines and professional schools. The faculty senate and its attendant committees provide elected faculty liaisons to the university board and president.
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A primary function of the senate is to represent the voice of the faculty in matters of university governance. Each school or college within a university is under the direction of a dean. A chairperson or department head supervises individual departments of instruction. Faculty members are ranked, in descending order, as professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor. Faculty of various ranks may or may not be tenured, depending on the institution.
Faculty members can be dismissed from their posts unless and until they have been granted tenure, a term denoting a measure of academic job security that is earned through a combination of demonstrated teaching, research, and service contributions. The faculty generally has significant influence over the hiring of new faculty members, tenure and promotion procedures, the university curriculum and graduation requirements, and admissions criteria. While the role of the faculty in governance was at one time largely advisory, over time the faculty has become increasingly engaged in policy formation.
In many cases the faculty possesses significant authority over academic affairs. Faculty representatives are often found on governing boards, in formal or informal non-voting positions. The formal authority of the faculty may be codified in institutional charters or in the standing rules of institutional governing boards. Prerequisite: Completion of foundations core or permission of department head.
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