The school provost reports directly to the college or university president. This position comes with weighty responsibilities, but it can be exciting, too. The provost is responsible for implementing academic priorities for the university and creating the direction of the curricula, as well as allocating the resources to support each initiative. The position requires working closely with department heads, academic deans, and other faculty and staff to ensure that students receive the highest quality of education.
The provost also has a hand in recruiting and retaining faculty for the university, finding the right qualified individuals who support the direction of its educational programs. As the academic chief of the university, the provost helps maintain the standards of education and the quality of the curricula of each department.
The success of a university’s academic program rests on the shoulders of the provost. All course plans and research head directly up to this office, so the provost must be committed to ongoing learning and aware of developments in each field. Although the provost position is primarily one of academic stewardship, at many universities, the provost also takes on responsibilities in student services and affairs, course compliance, finance, marketing, and fundraising.
The office of the provost has a large, diverse set of responsibilities. These include, but aren’t limited to:
The role of the provost may vary from one academic institution to the next. While in some cases, the position is still largely academic in nature, in other universities, the provost may take on a role more like a chief operating officer. This position is managerial in nature, and a strong candidate is comfortable managing many different types of personalities. The responsibility of the provost largely depends on the mission of the university and on its resources and structure.
Long-range planning is essential to success in a provost position. As the chief educational officer at the university, the provost shapes the nature of the university’s education, which may influence the type of students that enroll there.
Strong time management skills and a sense of what missions to prioritize within the university’s structure also are important. The provost ensures that each degree program has curricula that make students well-rounded and successful in enhancing their job prospects after graduation. This, in turn, affects enrollment at the university, as well as alumni donations.
A provost should listen openly to feedback from faculty members. Each instructor has a different perspective and insight into the course programs for their field. Developing relationships with the professors and support staff in each college can help a provost coordinate with the deans of each college to determine the course selections and the requirements for each degree.
A provost should also be fair and impartial when making decisions. A university can be a highly political environment, so being able to navigate the different factions of the university dispassionately helps a provost make evidence-based decisions for the greater good of the institution. A provost who can rely on factual criteria for making decisions about courses and the overall direction of the university is likely to have greater success in creating policy and implementing changes.
Many universities require a provost to have some previous teaching experience at the college level. For a college dean and provost, a doctorate degree is typically required, although some smaller colleges may only require a master’s degree. While a provost’s academic field of study can vary, some provosts have degrees that relate to Educational Administration. Other provosts may hold a doctorate in arts, sciences, accounting, or finance.
Licensing and certification requirements for a provost can vary by state, and each university may set standards for their provost differently, based on job duties and school regulations.
Average salaries for university provosts will vary by location, size of the college, and duties. Below are a few average salaries.
Job growth for post-secondary administrators, including the provost position, is expected to increase ahead of the national average over the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, post-secondary job growth is expected to grow at a rate of 7% between 2018 and 2028.
University provosts have many opportunities to make an impact on the education of students and the direction of an academic environment, especially with regard to the curricula and types of courses that are offered. Additionally, allocating resources from the university’s budget to improve certain programs gives many provosts the satisfaction of control.
However, the provost job can sometimes cause a sense of isolation, as a provost has few peers within the university. Some provosts, especially those new to the job, may struggle with determining their priorities and making decisions about which courses to offer, what degree programs require, and other kinds of long-range planning for the university.
The provost position is near the top of the higher education system. Few growth positions are available for people who have reached this level. Some provosts may move from a smaller university to a larger one. Other provosts may choose to pursue a position as the president of a university or a place on the board of trustees.
Most provost positions already require a PhD, but some universities are willing to accept a variety of terminal degrees. Some provosts may choose to pursue additional degrees in educational administration or management (via EdD degrees) to learn more about executing their job responsibilities.
Professional networks and associations give people in higher education an opportunity to bounce ideas off one another and seek creative input for some challenges they face at their own universities. Professional organizations a provost may wish to join include:
Many states have their own professional associations, which may be useful, as standards for higher education vary state by state. These organizations may be helpful for unique issues that provosts face in each state.
Provosts can use the internet to connect with others in secondary education to explore problems and solutions. From professional blogs to advice from veteran administrators, a new provost can gain insight and assistance through reputable sources.