Association of American Universities

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Association of American Universities
Association of American Universities seal.png
Formation 1900
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Membership 62
President Hunter R. Rawlings III
 United States

The Association of American Universities (AAU) is an international organization of leading research universities devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education. It consists of 60 universities in the United States (both public and private) and two universities in Canada.


The AAU was founded in 1900 by a group of fourteen Ph.D.-granting universities in the United States to strengthen and standardize American doctoral programs. Today, the primary purpose of the organization is to provide a forum for the development and implementation of institutional and national policies, in order to promote strong programs in academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate, and professional education.


The largest attraction of the AAU for many schools, especially nonmembers, is prestige. For example, in 2010 the chancellor of nonmember North Carolina State University described it as "the pre-eminent research-intensive membership group. To be a part of that organization is something N.C. State aspires to."[1] A spokesman for nonmember University of Connecticut called it "perhaps the most elite organization in higher education. You'd probably be hard-pressed to find a major research university that didn't want to be a member of the AAU."[2] In 2012, the new elected chancellor of University of Massachusetts Amherst, a nonmember of AAU, reaffirmed the framework goal of elevating the campus to AAU standards which inspire them to become a member in the near future, and called it a distinctive status.[3] Because of the lengthy and difficult entrance process, boards of trustees, state legislators, and donors often see membership as evidence of the quality of a university.[1]

The AAU acts as a lobbyist at its headquarters in the city of Washington, D.C. for research and higher education funding and on policy and regulatory issues affecting research universities. The association holds two meetings annually, both in Washington. Separate meetings are held for university presidents, provosts, and other officials. Because the meetings are private they offer the opportunity for discussion without media coverage. Prominent government officials, businessmen, and others often speak to the groups.[1]


Executive Term
Thomas A. Bartlett 1977–1982
Robert M. Rosenzweig 1983–1993
Cornelius J. Pings 1993–1998
Nils Hasselmo July 1, 1998 – April 2006
Robert M. Berdahl May 2006 – June 2011
Hunter R. Rawlings III July 1, 2011 – present


As of 2004, AAU members accounted for 58 percent[4] of U.S. universities' research grants and contract income and 52 percent of all doctorates awarded in the United States. Since 1999, 43 percent of all Nobel Prize winners and 74 percent of winners at U.S. institutions have been affiliated with an AAU university. Approximately two-thirds of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2006 Class of Fellows are affiliated with an AAU university. The faculties at AAU universities include 2,993 members of the United States National Academies (82 percent of all members): the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine (2004).[5]

  • Undergraduate students: 1,044,759; 7% nationally
  • Undergraduate degrees awarded: 235,328; 17% nationally
  • Graduate students: 418,066; 20% nationally
  • Master’s awarded: 106,971; 19% nationally
  • Professional Degrees: 20,859; 25% nationally
  • Doctorates awarded: 22,747; 52% nationally
  • Postdoctoral Fellows: 30,430; 67% nationally
  • Students Studying Abroad: 57,205
  • National Merit/Achievement Scholars (2004): 5,434; 63% nationally
  • Faculty: approximately 72,000


AAU membership is by invitation only, which requires an affirmative vote of three-fourths of current members. Invitations are considered periodically, based in part on an assessment of the breadth and quality of university programs of research and graduate education, as well as undergraduate education. The association ranks its members using four criteria: research spending, the percentage of faculty who are members of the National Academies, faculty awards, and citations. Two thirds of members can vote to revoke membership for poor rankings.[6][7] As of 2010 annual dues are $80,500.[1]

Founding members are bolded, and year of admission is shown in parentheses.

Public (34)[edit]

Private (26)[edit]

Canadian (2)[edit]

Former members[edit]

Departed as a result of "institutional emphases and energies" that differed from the other AAU members.[8]
Departed because of a shift in the AAU's emphasis to large research universities.[9]
Removed from the AAU.[7] Chancellor Harvey Perlman claimed that the lack of an on-campus medical school (the Medical Center is a separate campus of the University of Nebraska system) and the AAU's disregarding of USDA-funded agricultural research in its metrics hurt the university's performance in the association's internal ranking system.[6] In 2010 Perlman stated that had Nebraska not been part of the AAU, the Big Ten would likely not have invited it to become the athletic conference's 12th member,[2] although a lack of support for Nebraska's AAU membership by some Big Ten members "call into question the pretext on which Nebraska was invited to join [the Big Ten]."[10]
Because of a dispute over how to count non-Federal grants, Syracuse voluntarily withdrew from the AAU in 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that after " became clear that Syracuse wouldn't meet the association's revised membership criteria, university officials decided that they would leave the organization voluntarily, rather than face a vote like Nebraska's, and notified the leadership of their intentions."[11]


The AAU supported the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 5056; 113th Congress) arguing that the legislation "can lead to a long-needed reduction in the regulatory burden currently imposed on universities and their faculty members who conduct research on behalf of the federal government."[12] According to the AAU, "too often federal requirements" for accounting for federal grant money "are ill-conceived, ineffective, and/or duplicative."[12] This wastes the researchers' times and "reduces the time they can devote to discovery and innovation and increases institutional compliance costs."[12]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Fain, Paul (2010-04-21). "As AAU Admits Georgia Tech to Its Exclusive Club, Other Universities Await the Call". Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Hine, Chris (2010-06-13). "Nebraska has it all to attract Big Ten, most importantly AAU membership". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ UMass Amherst: Kumble R. Subbaswamy - Feature Story. (2012-05-13). Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  4. ^ Over $15.9 billion: NIH: $9.1 billion, 60 percent of total academic research funding. Research Funding: National Science Foundation: $2.0 billion, 63 percent of total academic research funding Department of Defense: $1.2 billion, 56 percent of total academic research funding Department of Energy: $505.2 million, 63 percent of total academic research funding NASA: $673.2 million, 57 percent of total academic research funding Department of Agriculture: $271.9 million, 41 percent of total academic research funding
  5. ^ AAU Facts and Figures. Accessed August 24, 2008.
  6. ^ a b Abourezk, Kevin (2011-04-29). "Research universities group ends UNL's membership". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Selingo, Jeffrey J. (2011-04-29). "U. of Nebraska-Lincoln Is Voted Out of Assn. of American Universities". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  8. ^ O'Connell, The Most Rev. David M. (2002). "From the President's Desk". The Catholic University of America. Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ Peter Schmidt, "Clark U. Leaves Association of American Universities; Others May Follow" (September 10, 1999). Chronicle of Higher Education.
  10. ^ Smith, Mitch; Abourezk, Kevin (September 3, 2011). "Emails: Wisconsin and Michigan opposed Nebraska's AAU membership". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved October 14, 2013. 
  11. ^ Selingo, Jeffrey J. (2011-05-02). "Facing an Ouster From an Elite Group of Universities, Syracuse U. Says It Will Withdraw". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c "AAU Statement on the Research and Development Efficiency Act". Association of American Universities. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 

External links[edit]