Middle English faculte, from Anglo-French faculté, from Medieval Latin & Latin; Medieval Latin facultat-, facultas branch of learning or teaching, from Latin, ability, abundance, from facilis facile
- Date: 14th century
- b : an inherent capability, power, or function <the faculty of hearing>
- c : any of the powers of the mind formerly held by psychologists to form a basis for the explanation of all mental phenomena
- d : natural aptitude <has a faculty for saying the right things>
- 2 a : a branch of teaching or learning in an educational institution
- b archaic : something in which one is trained or qualified
- 3 a : the members of a profession
- b : the teaching and administrative staff and those members of the administration having academic rank in an educational institution
- c : faculty plural : faculty members <many faculty were present>
- 4 : power, authority, or prerogative given or conferred
A faculty is a division within a university comprising one subject area, or a number of related subject areas (for the North American usage, referring to academic staff, see below). In North American usage such divisions are generally referred to as colleges (e.g., "college of arts and sciences") or schools (e.g., "school of business"), but may also mix terminology (e.g., [Harvard University has a "faculty of arts and sciences" but a "law school").
The concept of a university with different faculties for different subjects dates back to Al-Azhar University, which had individual faculties for a Madrasah, theological seminary, Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, Islamic philosophy, and logic in Islamic philosophy.
The medieval University of Paris, which served as a model for most of the later medieval universities in Europe, had four faculties: the Faculties of Theology, Law, Medicine, and finally the Faculty of Arts, which every student had to graduate from in order to continue his training in one of the other three, sometimes known as the higher faculties. The privilege to establish these four faculties was usually part of all medieval charters for universities, but not every university could in reality do so.
The Faculty of Arts took its name from the seven liberal arts: the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy). In German, Scandinavian, Slavic and other universities, the name for this faculty would more often literally translate as 'faculty of philosophy'. The degree of Magister Artium (Master of Arts) derives its name from the Faculty of Arts, while the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) originates within German education and derives its name from the German name of the Arts faculty.
The number of faculties has usually multiplied in modern universities, both through subdivisions of the traditional four faculties, and through the absorption of academic disciplines which have developed within originally vocational schools, in areas such as engineering or agriculture.
Additional North American usage
In North American English, the word faculty is also used as a collective noun for the academic staff of a university: senior teachers, lecturers, and/or researchers. The term is most commonly used in this context in the United States and Canada, and generally includes professors of various rank: assistant professors, associate professors, and (full) professors, usually tenured (or tenure-track) in terms of their contract of employment.
Members of university administration (e.g., department chairs, deans, vice presidents, presidents, and librarians) are often also faculty members, in many cases beginning (and remaining) as professors. In some universities, the distinction between 'academic faculty' and 'administrative faculty' is made explicit by the former being contracted for nine months per year, meaning that they can be absent from the campus during the summer vacation, while the latter are contracted for twelve months per year. These two types of faculty status are sometimes known as 'nine month faculty' and 'twelve month faculty'.
Most university faculty hold a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate degree. Some professionals or instructors from other institutions who are associated with a particular university (e.g., by teaching some courses or supervising graduate students) but do not hold professorships may be appointed as adjunct faculty.
Other than universities, community colleges and secondary or primary schools also use the terms faculty and professor to describe their instructors, but this does not hold the same status as a professor in a university. Other institutions (e.g., teaching hospitals) may likewise use the term faculty.
Faculty is a distinct category from staff, although members of both groups are employees of the institution in question. This is distinct from, for example, the British or Australian usage, in which all employees of the institution are staff, of two types: academic staff (North American faculty) and general staff (North American staff).