Policy vs. Procedure: A Guideline


A campus-wide effort is underway to recast and revitalize the Campus Administrative Manual (CAM) into a more coherent set of chaptered policy statements organized around the several operational divisions of the University.

This guideline, "Policy vs. Procedures" has been developed as an aid to those involved in drafting and reviewing proposed policy statements for inclusion in the new publication known as "Campus Administrative Policies" (CAP). The emphasis in the CAP is on policy, not procedures.


Policy: The formal guidance needed to coordinate and execute activity throughout the institution. When effectively deployed, policy statements help focus attention and resources on high priority issues - aligning and merging efforts to achieve the institutional vision. Policy provides the operational framework within which the institution functions.

Procedures: The operational processes required to implement institutional policy. Operating practices can be formal or informal, specific to a department or applicable across the entire institution. If policy is "what" the institution does operationally, then its procedures are "how" it intends to carry out those operating policy expressions.


The distinctions commonly drawn between policy and procedures can be subtle, depending upon the nature of the organization and the level of operations being described in the statements. Nevertheless, there are common characteristics that can help discern policy from procedures (or the practices used to implement policy). They are:

Policy Procedure
Widespread application Narrow application
Changes less frequently Prone to change
Usually expressed in broad terms Often stated in detail
Statements of "what" and/or "why" Statements of "how," "when" and/or sometimes "who"
Answers major operational issue(s) Statements of "how," "when" and/or sometimes "who"


Here are some examples out of CAM to help underscore the distinctions between policy and procedure:

CAM 640 Student Financial Aid: The Financial Aid Office is responsible for the administration and resource coordination of the university's student financial aid program which covers all scholarships, loans, grants, fellowships, assistantships, student stipends, and work-study. A standard application called the Student Aid Application for California is required for most of the financial aid programs. There is also an established filing period for priority consideration. This period is January 1 through March 1.

Comment: The first sentence represents a clear statement of policy that the FAO has certain responsibilities. The second sentence relates more to procedures. The third and fourth sentences might be either policy or procedure depending upon the level of detail needed to fully state the policy.

CAM 341.2 Support Staff Employees: Evaluations for a majority of support staff employees are conducted after completion of three, six, nine and twelve months of service during the probationary period. Once permanency is achieved -- usually at the end of one year of probation -- performance evaluations are completed annually by the supervisor. For administrative/professional employees in some collective bargaining units, performance evaluations are completed after six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four months of service, and annually thereafter. (See Support Staff Employee Performance Evaluations Forms 138 and 139, available in the Personnel Office.)

The supervisor will use one of the Support Staff Employee Performance Evaluation Forms to evaluate support staff employees.

Comment: The first paragraph is policy. The follow-on parenthesis to that paragraph and the second one-sentence paragraph are more procedure than policy.

CAM 541.4 Policy for Receipting Gifts: The procedures for receipting gifts are contained in the Fund Raising and Public Affairs Policy and Guidelines. Generally all gifts will be centrally receipted by the University Development Services Office.

Comment: The section title indicates a policy statement is to follow. But the first sentence is merely a reference to another document on procedures. The second sentence is a policy statement.

Date last updated: February 22, 2013

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