Over its history, the feature of the internal governance of Queen's that has attracted the most attention from outside observers is its decentralized, or "collegial," nature. While internal government at most other universities can be adequately portrayed in a simple hierarchical diagram, at Queen's internal decision-making processes are more complex, with decision-making dispersed among multiple bodies at various levels, and with complex and interlocking relationships between those bodies.
In its basic structure, as established by the Royal Charter, the government of Queen's is bicameral, with a Board of Trustees responsible for overseeing the operation of the University, and in particular its financial operation, and with a Senate responsible for all academic matters.
But there is another basic distinction as well, between overall policy-making and day-to-day administration. The Board and the Senate are both policy-making bodies; the other main policy-making bodies are the faculty boards and departments.
Administrative responsibilities lie with the Principal, the Vice-Principals, the Deans, and the Department Heads, although in practice they are still more widely delegated.
Policy-making and administration are of course not entirely separate: administrative officers participate in policy-making through their ex-officio membership (but as a minority) in the policy-making bodies. Also participating in policy-making bodies, to various degrees according to the function of the body, are the university's other main constituencies: academic staff, students, support staff, and alumni.
For more details, refer to the document "Governance of Queen's," written by former Principal Ronald Watts and the late Dean of Law William Lederman. The document is available through the Office of the University Secretariat.