Section 2: University structure and administrative organisation

The structure of the University

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and lays claim to nine centuries of continuous existence. Oxford is an independent and self-governing institution, consisting of the central University and the Colleges. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge are able to alter their own statutes at will under the provisions of the 1923 Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Act, subject only to the approval of Her Majesty in Council.

The Vice-Chancellor, who holds office for five or seven years, is the senior officer of the University. The current Vice-Chancellor is Professor Louise Richardson who took office on 1 January 2016.

Seven Pro-Vice-Chancellors have specific, functional responsibility for: Development and External Affairs; Education; Planning and Resources; Research and Innovation; Academic Resources and Information Systems; Equality and Diversity; Brexit Strategy.

The Chancellor, who is usually an eminent public figure elected for life, serves as the titular head of the University, presiding over all major ceremonies. The present Chancellor is the Right Honourable Lord Patten of Barnes CH.

The principal policy-making body is the Council of the University, which has 26 members, including those elected by Congregation, (see below) representatives of the colleges and four members from outside the University. Council is responsible for the academic policy and strategic direction of the University, and operates through four major committees: Educational Policy and Standards; General Purposes; Personnel; and Planning and Resource Allocation.

Final responsibility for legislative matters rests with Congregation, which comprises over 5,000 members of the academic, senior research, library, museum and administrative staff. Administrators at Grade 8 or higher are eligible to be members of Congregation.

Day-to-day decision-making in matters such as finance and planning is devolved to the University's four Academic Divisions: Humanities; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Medical Sciences; and Social Sciences. Each division has a full-time divisional head, a divisional board, and a divisional secretary. Continuing Education is the responsibility of a separate board.

The major academic support services - the University Library Services, the Information Technology Services (see Section 10), and the Language Centre - are grouped together with the University's four museums and the Botanic Garden as Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM), oversight of which is the responsibility of one of the Pro-Vice-Chancellors (see above).

The colleges, though independent and self-governing, form a core element of the University, to which they are related in a federal system. In time, each college may be granted a charter approved by the Privy Council, under which it is governed by a Governing Body comprising a number of fellows, most of whom also hold university posts. There are also a number of Permanent Private Halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations, and which still retain their religious character. Thirty colleges and all seven halls admit students for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Seven other colleges are for graduates only; one, All Souls, has fellows only, and one, Kellogg College, supports the lifelong learning work of the University for adult, part-time, and professional development students.

A simplified depiction of university relationships with regard to those parts of the organisation outlined in this manual is given below.
Simplified view of University relationships (7kb)

University Statutes and Regulations

Currently there are 17 statutes governing the University which are amplified by a number of more detailed regulations. The regulation covering departmental arrangements is Council Regulation 30 of 2002. All the statutes and associated regulations are available at:

Examination regulations are revised and published annually. They are also available at:

The Proctors' Office

The Proctors' Office is the administrative base for three senior officers of the University who are elected annually by colleges.

The Senior Proctor and Junior Proctor ensure the University operates according to its statutes. As well as being members of key decision-making committees, they deal with

  • University (as distinct from college) student discipline
  • Complaints about university matters
  • The running of University examinations

They also carry out ceremonial duties, e.g. at degree ceremonies.

The Assessor is the third senior officer, responsible particularly for student welfare and finance.

University Gazette

Details of proposed and agreed changes to university legislation are announced in the University Gazette, which also provides the following information:

  • Official announcements
  • Announcements of events, such as lectures, exhibitions
  • Appointments to university posts, such as professorships, etc.
  • Vacancies for academic (and some non-academic) posts
  • Notices concerning grants available
  • Classified advertisements
  • Diary of university events

The Gazette is published weekly throughout the academic year (September to July), but not continuously over the vacations. A series of supplements is also published, giving further official information of various kinds. Further information can be found on the Gazette website.

A copy of the Gazette is issued to each member of Congregation, is sent to all departments, and is also accessible on the web.

Contact details to have material published in the Gazette are at

Administrative organisation of the University

Administratively the University has three basic elements, namely:

  • Divisions, and the departments within them (see Section 3)
  • University Administration and Services (see Sections 4 to 15)
  • Colleges (see information later in this section)

Day-to-day decision-making in matters such as finance and planning is devolved to the Departments through the University's four Academic Divisions: Humanities; Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences; Medical Sciences; and Social Sciences. Each division has a full-time divisional head, a divisional board, and a divisional secretary. Continuing Education is the responsibility of a separate board.

Senior Administrative Officers


Under the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar is the head of the University Administration Services (although Finance and Development/External Affairs report direct to the Vice-Chancellor), and is responsible for the management and professional development of their staff and for the development of other administrative support. The University's other senior administrative officers are under the general direction of the Registrar and are responsible to him for the due performance of their duties, except that they always have the right to make their views on financial, professional, and technical matters known to the Vice-Chancellor, Council, and the appropriate committees of the University.

Details on the work of the Academic Administration Division, including an organisational structure chart. 

Central Services

Alphabetical list providing links to University Administrative Services (UAS) websites

As indicated above, basic information on the services most often contacted by departmental administrators is given in sections 4 to 15 of this manual.


In the main the colleges are administratively independent but departments do have limited interaction with them, e.g. over joint academic appointments, student admissions. The 'Conference of Colleges' provides a forum for colleges to deal with matters of shared interest and common purpose, and to do so in a coherent manner. It is a voice for college interests within the university community, and its primary functions are:

  • To facilitate informed and transparent debate over collegiate issues
  • To gather the views of colleges and represent them in dealing with the University
  • To help to formulate a majority view among colleges
  • To take decisions on behalf of colleges collectively.

The Conference appoints representatives to serve on university bodies and joint university/college committees; has representation on Council, its committees, and the four divisional boards; and acts as a body for intercollegiate discussion and decision-making.

Since college administrative organisations and procedures vary one from another college administration is not covered in any detail in this manual.