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The academic deans are the chief executives and administrators of the various colleges or other academic divisions of an institution. For example, at a large university, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, and the School of Law each have a dean who is appointed by the president or the academic vice president. Frequently, deans have had experience as chairpersons of academic departments in the institution. The responsibilities of deans typically include implementing policies established by the board of trustees and the president; preparing the budgets and overseeing the spending of funds within the academic division; supervising the faculty; recommending faculty in their college or school to the academic vice president for appointment, promotion, tenure, or termination; and maintaining or increasing student enrollments in their college or school.

Most colleges and universities are organized into academic departments. For example, the faculty members who teach history are organized into the history department. These departments have a chairperson who is appointed by the academic vice president upon the recommendation of the dean of the college or school, usually in consultation with the department's faculty members. Chairpersons are generally senior professors in the department. Among the chairperson's responsibilities are organizing the schedules of courses offered by the department and assigning faculty to teach them; appointing new faculty members to the department, usually based upon recommendations of faculty search committees; evaluating faculty within the department on their teaching, research, and service for promotion, tenure, or termination; implementing university- or college-wide policies within the department; and presiding over meetings of the faculty members of the department. 2021.