The University of Pittsburgh is an institution of higher learning and research in which policy is shaped with the involvement of Trustees, administrators, faculty members, staff, and students. An environment of collegiality permits individuals and groups to share information and express views in an open and responsive manner. Consultation and consensus-building are important means for approaching decisions, especially in academic and financial matters.

The Chancellor is the chief academic and administrative officer of the University. The Chancellor shall be entrusted with the superintendence, protection, and development of the welfare and reputation of the University. The Chancellor is a member of the Board of Trustees and is responsible to the Board. The Chancellor's deputies in guiding instruction and research are the Senior Vice Chancellor and Provost, the Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, the deans of the various schools and faculties, the presidents of the regional campuses, the department chairs, and the directors of University centers and institutes. The Chancellor, the Provost, the Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, the deans, and the regional campus presidents are recruited and selected in accordance with procedures that involve representative members of the faculty and staff, as well as student leaders. Faculty of the University, particularly those of the relevant schools, and students are urged to recommend candidates for these positions.

Other principal administrative officers of the University include the Executive Vice Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor for Budget and Controller, the Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement, Vice Chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs, Vice Chancellor for Research Conduct and Compliance, and the Secretary of the Board of Trustees.

The University is organized by campuses, colleges/schools, and centers. Each school is administered by a dean. In most of the schools, the basic organizational unit is the academic department, headed by a chair. Traditionally, and by specific delegation from the Trustees and the Chancellor, departmental faculties determine curriculum design, instructional practice, grading, and admissions, and effectively propose faculty appointments and promotions. In other areas, including budget operation, personnel management, and salary practice, authority is specifically delegated from the Trustees through an administrative chain including the Chancellor, the Provost, or Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, Executive Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor for Budget and Controller, deans and regional campus presidents, and chairs of the academic departments. In summary, the pattern of governance in the University is one of shared responsibilities and authority, with the ultimate legal authority residing in the Board of Trustees.

Members of the faculty express their views, recommendations, and requests through their departmental and school faculty meetings and committees, through the University Senate, and through the University Planning and Budgeting System. Under the Planning and Budgeting System, the widest participation by administrators, faculty, staff, and students in planning and budgeting takes place in a bottom-up manner, usually beginning at the department/program level.