Why faculty usually have two official email addresses, the university and the department address?

  1. [email protected]
  2. [email protected]

Do they use the second more to communicate with students and the first for other tasks? They could use one and add emails to folders or labels.

  • 30
    At my university, these are aliases for the same email account. I think this is fairly common. Jul 3, 2015 at 23:03
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    In some federal universities such as Oxford the staff (and students) will also get an email address from each college of which they are a member! Sometimes it is a matter of a subgroup asserting its identity over the whole, with its own IT infrastructure and its own mail system.
    – Calchas
    Jul 4, 2015 at 16:24
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    As a sudent I started with about 4, one from my username, one from my student number, another from my student number at mailserver hostname, and one from the CS department, that all went to the same account. 6 years later, as a postgrad I am down to one from my student number, my studentnumber at gmail (whom the uni outsourced mail serving to), my name at research, and then a staff email of myname at institution. Email Aliases are common and prevelent in large organistions. I created a graph of the aliases used in our student computer club: oxinabox.ucc.asn.au/images/aliases.svg Jul 5, 2015 at 1:08
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    @Oxinabox They outsourced mail servicing to gmail? Seriously? How mean is that! Jul 5, 2015 at 13:41
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    @BenediktBauer They have contract with google, valued at more than I can imagine, no doubt. And why not? Google as proven its capacity to provide mail services, with extremely high uptime, and capacity. Jul 5, 2015 at 15:04

6 Answers 6


As Andy Putman points out in his comment, the two addresses often go to the same place. Even if there are two different accounts, it's common to forward e-mail from one to the other (or to a third account). Nobody uses both accounts independently unless they have some idiosyncratic reason to do so.

The existence of two addresses is not nearly as universal as you suggest. You don't usually see english.university.edu or art-history.university.edu in e-mail addresses, for example. The departments that do have special addresses (such as CS or math) often ran their own mail servers long before university-wide servers were common. Some still do, because they don't like the way the university servers are run or don't trust them to be reliable, while others simply provide aliases for the university servers. Either way, getting rid of the departmental addresses would be disruptive, so they are likely to exist for the foreseeable future.

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    To give an example: one reason I keep my department and university accounts separate is to keep the constant stream of university emails from cluttering my inbox and distracting me from work.
    – Kimball
    Jul 4, 2015 at 1:41
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    @Kimball So you use the department account for all students and tasks, while the university for other tasks? Can you please elaborate more?
    – Thomas Lee
    Jul 4, 2015 at 19:40
  • @ThomasLee I started to write an elaboration in a comment, but it was getting long so I added it as a new answer.
    – Kimball
    Jul 5, 2015 at 3:26
  • "because they don't like the way the university servers are run or don't trust them to be reliable" - I think a more likely explanation would be, they don't want to lose emails from colleagues who only have their old email address. Jul 5, 2015 at 6:39
  • I am not sure what is more likely, but I I did run into people where the "because they don't like the way the university servers are run or don't trust them to be reliable" was true. Which might no longer hold today now that exchange has matured. But in ye old days the unix server with sendmail where a lot more reliable (or better maintained?) than our exchange setup.
    – Hennes
    Jul 5, 2015 at 11:32

While it is possible that some departments are running separate mail servers and faculty members are not linking the accounts, in the cases I am aware of this dates back to times when email and computer logins where managed at the department level and there was no concept of a university email account. Some departments I have been in are actively phasing out the departmental alias such that new staff members do not get a departmental alias while others are continuing to give out departmental aliases. In all cases I am aware of, both addresses link to a single email account.

As to why a faculty member may give out one address over another, that comes down to personal preference.


In addition to the given reasons, I know of two other common reasons why you may often see multiple addresses:

  1. Some institutions have both a "fixed" and a "personalized" form of email address. Members of the institution generally have no choice in the fixed form, which is often set directly from their official legal name and sometimes even before they join the institution. Sometimes these are pretty horrible (I've seem email of the form [initials][3-digit-number]@university), and sometimes one's legal name is not one's preferred form of address (e.g., my own name), so most institutions also allow people to set up one or more preferred aliases.
  2. Email is generally not actually routed through a server for the toplevel address (e.g., "ivyleague.edu") but rather through some arbitrary sub-element within that system (e.g., "mailmangler.ivyleague.edu"), and sometimes the electronic bones of this system are visible in multiple different equivalent email addresses.

Why faculty usually have 2 official emails, the university email and the department?

Sometimes, the answer is simply "because they can". At various universities I am acquainted with, any employee gets several (more than 2) e-mail aliases for their one university e-mail inbox.

  • One of the distinctions is indeed usually a generic university-wide server part and one specific to the department. For departments that are subdivided into several groups, employees even get another e-mail address with the server part indicating the group name. And thinking about it, there is no real reason to discontinue this policy - the group or department-specific address has more "personality" in terms of representing one's group or department, while the generic one is easier to remember.
  • Furthermore, there are usually several alternative name parts available. For instance, everyone gets aliases for each of the aforementioned server parts with their unique account name, and aliases with a human-readable name (usually in "firstname.lastname" form). Sometimes, there is yet another set of aliases just with the "lastname" as the name part. Again, the difference is how easily the addresses can be recalled and read.

To summarize:

  • It is fairly easy to configure e-mail servers in a way to provide multiple aliases based on various naming conventions to each user.
  • There is no reason to reduce the number of aliases per user.
  • Different aliases have different advantages and disadvantages, so different aliases can be picked depending on the purpose (displaying an e-mail address, memorizing an e-mail address, saying an e-mail address in verbal conversation, writing an e-mail address at the board, ...).

This is in response to the OP's request in a comment to elaborate on my personal situation. This is not to explain why I have two email addresses, but just how I use them differently.

In my department (math), we have separate department and university servers both with email, and I keep my email accounts separate, though many people in our department forward from one to the other (usually from department to university, I think) and only check one.

Basically I use the department email for anything involving research or teaching or quasi-personal, as well as administrative stuff at the department level. Various factions within the university send out loads emails to us (often requiring no response and rarely urgent) which typically go to our university email addresses.

Therefore I made the conscious decision to not forward from one account to the other because almost all of these are unwanted emails, and I probably only open about 5-10% of them. So they would just clutter up my department inbox and distract me with email notifications throughout the day if I forwarded them to my department email, which I check often. I know I could filter the forwarded emails into a separate folder, but I don't want to know when I get a new university email, and having this extra login barrier helps reduce distraction.

So whenever I give my email address to someone, I give them my department email which I check throughout the day, whereas I usually check the university address about once every day or two. I honestly don't even know what my university email address is. Any email I send of my own accord will come from my department address. The only emails I send from my university account are replies to emails to that account.


I would think there is probably multiple departments trying to provide this internal mail service for the university.

The typical case is like there is a department-level IT infrastructure with its own mail addresses and its own policy, while there is also a central IT mail service provided by the university.

The second can be needed, for example if the department has needs which are contradicting the policy of he university (for example, if the Uni wants to give mail addresses only internal employee, while the department want to give mailboxes even for guest researchers, too).

Or the department-level mail address (and password) could be also used for authentication, f.e. to use the department-level computing infrastructure.

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