Harvard’s leadership is responsible for the strategic vision for the University.
Lawrence S. Bacow leads Harvard, and is the 29th President of the University.
The , led by , fosters collaboration across the University and manages changes in policies and practices that affect the academic life of the university as a whole. The Schools are led by officers and deans, who are responsible for Harvard’s academic programs and curricula.
By charter, Harvard has two governing boards—the President and Fellows of Harvard College (also known as the Corporation) and the Board of Overseers. The basic architecture of the two-board system is defined by the University’s charter, which is reflected in a series of documents dating to the mid-seventeenth century. Through their complementary efforts, the two boards perform the essential roles ordinarily associated with a board of trustees, while helping to shape the University’s agenda, inquiring into the quality and progress of its activities, and assuring that Harvard remains true to its mission.
Chartered in 1650, the Corporation exercises fiduciary responsibility with regard to the University’s academic, financial, and physical resources and overall well-being. It consists of the President, the Treasurer, and other members known as Fellows. The Corporation is in the process of expanding from seven to thirteen members and elaborating its committee structure, in light of reforms adopted by the governing boards in December 2010. The Corporation engages with both questions of long-range strategy, policy, and planning as well as transactional matters of unusual consequence. It serves as a confidential sounding board for the President on matters of importance; meets with deans, vice presidents, and others from time to time to discuss a wide array of programs and plans; and is responsible for approving the University’s budgets, major capital projects, endowment spending, tuition charges, and other matters.
The Board of Overseers is the larger of the two boards, comprising thirty elected members as well as the President and the Treasurer of the University, who serve ex officio. Members are elected by Harvard degree holders other than Corporation members and University officers. Typically, five new Overseers are elected each year to staggered six-year terms, from a slate of eight or more nominees. Drawing on the wide-ranging experience and expertise of its members, the Board exerts broad influence over the University’s strategic directions, provides counsel to the University leadership on priorities and plans, and has the power of consent to certain actions of the Corporation. The Board’s chief functions include superintendence of the visitation process, the principal mechanism for periodic external review of the quality and direction of the University’s schools, departments, and selected other programs and activities. The Board carries out this responsibility largely through the operation of more than fifty visiting committees, whose work is overseen by and reported to the Board.