Academic administration is a branch of university or college employees responsible for the maintenance and supervision of the institution and separate from the faculty or academics, although some personnel may have joint responsibilities. Some type of separate administrative structure exists at almost all academic institutions, as fewer and fewer schools are governed by employees who are also involved in academic or scholarly work. Many senior administrators are academics who have advanced degrees and no longer teach or conduct research actively.

The chief executive, the administrative and educational head of a university, depending on tradition and location, may be termed the university president, the provost, the chancellor (the United States), the vice-chancellor (many Commonwealth countries), principal (Scotland and Canada), or rector (Europe, Russia, Asia and the Middle East).

An administrative executive in charge of a university department or of some schools, may be termed a dean or some variation, such as dean emeritus. The chief executive of academic establishments other than universities, may be termed headmaster or head teacher (schools), director (used to reflect various positions ranging from the head of an institution to the head of a program), or principal, as used in primary education.

Full-time tertiary education administrators emerged as a distinct role in Australia from the mid-1970s, as institutions sought to deal with their increasing size and complexity, along with a broadening of their aspirations. As the professionalism of tertiary administrators has developed, there has been a corresponding push to recognise the uniqueness and validity of their role in the academic environment.