As Columbia's chief academic officer, the Provost has the broad responsibility for ensuring that the University's programs and faculty are of the highest quality. He directs the development and implementation of its academic plans and policies, and supervises the work of its Faculties, departments, institutes, and research centers.

With respect to academic personnel, his most important responsibility is to decide, with the assistance of the Tenure Review Advisory Committee, who should be recommended to the President and Trustees for tenure. He also authorizes, directly or through a representative, all academic appointments, salaries and leaves, and reviews faculty grievances.

In cooperation with other senior administrative officers, he develops the University's annual budget and long-term financial plans and oversees the creation of strong administrative services to support the University's academic activities. He also serves as the University's chief affirmative action officer.

The Provost is a member of all Faculties and administrative boards. In the event that the President is disabled, resigns, retires, or dies, he temporarily serves in that capacity until the Trustees can appoint a successor.