What is a Chancellor?

A chancellor is a college official whose role varies from institution to institution. There are at least three possible roles for chancellors.

  1. Honorary title: chancellors who hold an honorary title are associated with a college or university for such purposes as fundraising and publicity, but do not have any authority in the college. Universities in Great Britain typically use “chancellor” in this way, and the chief executive officer for the university holds the title of vice-chancellor. Some US colleges also have chancellors whose position is honorary; an example is William & Mary.
  2. Chief executive officer for an institution: some universities use the title of “chancellor” instead of “president” for the administrator who leads the institution. For example, the University of Kansas and the University of Pittsburgh are each led by a chancellor.
  3. Chief executive officer for a university system: some states have university systems, where multiple campuses share administrative oversight but also have some campus-specific control. Some of these systems are led by a chancellor, with each separate campus led by a president: an example of this is the State University of New York (SUNY) system. In other state systems, the leader of the whole system is called “president,” and each campus’s leader is called “chancellor”; examples of this approach are the University of California system and the University of Missouri System.