Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



This study sought to describe how offices of academic affairs (administrative offices supporting provosts) at public, research-intensive universities in the United States are structured and what kind of work these offices do. There is a dearth of scholarly literature on the topic, indicative of an overall lack of knowledge about these organizations. From a practical standpoint, I intended for this study to contribute to the body of knowledge of higher education administration with hopes that it provides helpful insights to administrators as they consider organizational design. Using the theoretical framework of modern organization theory, I employed an embedded case study approach, with the single case unit being the academic affairs function in universities, and subunits being individual academic affairs offices from among the population of institutions.

I collected qualitative data using two methods: content analyses of organizational charts from the public, research-intensive institutions in the United States, and interviews with current provosts. I used an a priori coding method to develop a data set on reporting structures of universities as well as terminology used for organizational units and administrative positions. For interviews, I developed a protocol based on the elite and specialized interviewing approach. I analyzed transcripts via an eclectic coding method, from which I identified recurring themes.

Structures and functions of offices of academic affairs are heavily influenced by provosts who maintain supervisory authority over many organizational units, such as academic colleges, assessment and accreditation, international programs, and enrollment management. Provosts and their staff also engage regularly with other administrative units that do not typically reside within the academic affairs function, such as finance and institutional communications. Offices of academic affairs engage in functions pursuant to fostering conditions to allow faculty and students to be successful in their academic pursuits. The work of provosts involves ensuring organizational alignment between the academic mission and the administrative activities of a university.



Committee Chair

Blanchard, Joy L.

Available for download on Thursday, October 31, 2024