Oxford is an independent and self-governing institution, consisting of the central University and the Colleges.
The Vice-Chancellor, who holds office for up to seven years, is the senior officer of the University.
Five Pro-Vice-Chancellors have specific, functional responsibility for:
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 principal policy-making body is the Council of the University, which has 26 members, including those elected by Congregation, 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 4,000 members of the academic, senior research, library, museum and administrative staff.
Day-to-day decision-making in matters such as finance and planning is devolved to the University's four Academic Divisions:
Each division has a full-time divisional head and an elected divisional board. Continuing Education is the responsibility of a separate board.
The thirty-nine Colleges, though independent and self-governing, form a core element of the University, to which they are related in a federal system, not unlike the United States. In time, each college is granted a charter approved by the Privy Council, under which it is governed by a Head of House and a Governing Body comprising of a number of Fellows, most of whom also hold University posts.
There are also seven 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.