Because of different backgrounds in higher education systems, different titles are popularly used for administrative titles in academia such as

University level - President, Vice Chancellor, Rector, Principal

Faculty level - Dean only

Department level - Head, Chair

For leading a faculty, the only common term is Dean. Am I right? or there are other alternatives too?

And more interestingly, the title of Dean is only used for the manager of a faculty, not other positions. Correct me if I'm wrong.

What is the historical meaning of dean, and what is special about this title, which is only used for a specific level in academia.

  • I think Oxford has "Chair of the Faculty" rather than Dean
    – 410 gone
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


The title "Dean" is by no means restricted to the leader of a faculty (or college, or other similar unit). For instance, most US universities have a "Dean of Students" who is responsible for student services, discipline, etc. Some have a "Dean of Residential Life" who runs the dorms. My alma mater had a "Dean of Student Activities", popularly known as the "Dean of Fun".

  • "Dean of Fun"? Anything like the "Fun Police"? ;-)
    – long
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 1:46
  • 1
    @long: A little bit. His job was mostly to come up with things for students to do that didn't involve alcohol. Concerts, subsidized movie tickets, and so forth. It was kind of a losing battle but he tried valiantly. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:23
  • @NateEldredge this is not what I meant. In some sense, Dean of Students is at the level of Dean of Faculty (both report to VP). I meant why the term of Dean is not used for other academic leaders; such as Dean of Department, Dean of Institute, Dean of Lab, Dean of Research Center or generally using the title of Dean instead of Director, which is very common for a wide range of leading positions?
    – user13854
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 9:05

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