|Formation||February 28, 1900|
|Founded at||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Type||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Headquarters||William T. Golden Center for Science and Engineering, Washington, D.C., U.S.|
The Association of American Universities (AAU) is an organization of American research universities devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education. Founded in 1900, it consists of 69 universities in the United States (both public and private) and two universities in Canada. AAU membership is by invitation only and requires an affirmative vote of three-quarters of current members. Membership is seen in the academic community as one of the most prestigious honors a research university can attain.
The AAU was founded on February 28, 1900, by a group of 14 Doctor of Philosophy degree-granting universities[a] in the United States to strengthen and standardize American doctoral programs. American universities—starting with University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University in 1876—were adopting the research-intensive German model of higher education. Lack of standardization damaged European universities' opinions of their American counterparts and many American students attended graduate school in Europe instead of staying in the U.S. The presidents of Harvard University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California sent a letter of invitation to nine other universities—Clark University, Catholic University of America, Cornell University, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin, and Yale University—to meet in Chicago in February 1900 to promote and raise standards. The AAU's founding members elected Harvard's Charles William Eliot as the association's first president and Stanford's David Starr Jordan as its first chairman.
In 1914, the AAU began accrediting undergraduate education at its member and other schools. German universities used the "AAU Accepted List" to determine whether a college's graduates were qualified for graduate programs. Regional accreditation agencies existed in the U.S. by the 1920s, and the AAU ended accrediting schools in 1948.
For its first six decades, the AAU functioned as a club for the presidents and deans of elite research universities to informally discuss educational matters, and its day-to-day operations were managed by an executive secretary. In the 1970s, the AAU shifted to a role of active advocacy on behalf of its members' interests; dues were raised, more staff members were hired, and its chief executive was given the title of president and the duty of becoming far more publicly visible than his predecessors.
Today, the AAU consists of 71 U.S. and Canadian universities of varying sizes and missions that share a commitment to research. The organization's primary purpose is to provide a forum for the development and implementation of institutional and national policies in order to strengthen programs in academic research, scholarship, and education at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels.
The largest attraction of the AAU for many schools, especially nonmembers, is prestige. Since the AAU's founding, it has "been a grouping of the elite in the American university world", and "[n]ew presidents of nonmember universities often list gaining admission to the AAU as a goal of their administration." 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." 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." In 2012, the newly elected chancellor of University of Massachusetts Amherst, a nonmember of AAU, reaffirmed the objective of elevating the campus to AAU standards and the hope of becoming a member in the near future, and called it a distinctive status. 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.
The AAU acts as a lobbyist at its headquarters in Washington, DC, for research and higher education funding and for 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, business leaders, and others often speak to the groups.
|Thomas A. Bartlett||1977–1982|
|Robert M. Rosenzweig||1983–1993|
|Cornelius J. Pings||1993–1998|
|Robert M. Berdahl||2006–2011|
|Hunter R. Rawlings III||2011–2016|
|Mary Sue Coleman||2016–2020|
As of 2004[update], AAU members accounted for 58 percent[b] 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).
- Undergraduate students: 1,044,759; 7 percent nationally
- Undergraduate degrees awarded: 235,328; 17 percent nationally
- Graduate students: 418,066; 20 percent nationally
- Master's degrees awarded: 106,971; 19 percent nationally
- Professional degrees awarded: 20,859; 25 percent nationally
- Doctorates awarded: 22,747; 52 percent nationally
- Postdoctoral fellows: 30,430; 67 percent nationally
- Students studying abroad: 57,205
- National Merit/Achievement Scholars (2004): 5,434; 63 percent 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. Non-member universities whose research and education profile exceeds that of a number of current members may be invited to join the association; current members whose research and education profile falls significantly below that of other current members or below the criteria for admission of new members will be subject to further review and possible discontinuation of membership. A vote by two-thirds of the member institutions can revoke membership for poor rankings. As of 2022[update] annual dues are $139,500. All 69 U.S. members of the AAU are also classified as Highest Research Activity (R1) Universities by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, as are three of the five former AAU members.
|Institution||State or province||Control||Established||Year joined||Total students||Medical school
|Federally funded R&D exp.
(Dollars in thousands)
|Arizona State University||Arizona||Public||1885||2023||80,065||N||N||274,541|
|Brown University||Rhode Island||Private||1764||1933||8,619||N||198,574|
|California Institute of Technology||California||Private||1891||1934||2,231||N||N||293,197|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pennsylvania||Private||1900||1982||12,908||N||N||234,993|
|Case Western Reserve University||Ohio||Private||1826||1969||12,201||N||340,438|
|Columbia University||New York||Private||1754||1900||29,250||N||831,648|
|Cornell University||New York||Private||1865||1900||21,904||592,359|
|Dartmouth College||New Hampshire||Private||1769||2019||6,571||N||152,335|
|Duke University||North Carolina||Private||1838||1938||14,600||N||776,632|
|George Washington University||District of Columbia||Private||1821||2023||26,457||N||161,349|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||Georgia||Public||1885||2010||29,370||N||N||852,319|
|Indiana University Bloomington||Indiana||Public||1820||1909||42,731||N[d]||||N||326,326|
|Johns Hopkins University||Maryland||Private||1876||1900||23,073||N||2,774,643|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Massachusetts||Private||1861||1934||11,319||N||[e]||483,526|
|Michigan State University||Michigan||Public||1855||1964||50,023||349,889|
|New York University||New York||Private||1831||1950||53,711||N||547,027|
|Ohio State University||Ohio||Public||1870||1916||57,466||559,797|
|Pennsylvania State University||Pennsylvania||Public||1855||1958||45,518||622,532|
|Princeton University||New Jersey||Private||1746||1900||8,010||N||N||205,000|
|Rutgers University–New Brunswick||New Jersey||Public||1766||1989||41,565||||339,015|
|Stony Brook University||New York||Public||1957||2001||26,814||N||162,972|
|Texas A&M University||Texas||Public||1876||2001||72,982||528,057|
|University at Buffalo||New York||Public||1846||1989||30,183||N||210,257|
|University of Arizona||Arizona||Public||1885||1985||40,223||353,117|
|University of California, Berkeley||California||Public||1868||1900||36,204||N[f]||354,478|
|University of California, Davis||California||Public||1905||1996||34,175||373,719|
|University of California, Irvine||California||Public||1965||1996||29,588||255,010|
|University of California, Los Angeles||California||Public||1919||1974||42,163||721,043|
|University of California, Riverside||California||Public||1907||2023||26,809||97,182|
|University of California, San Diego||California||Public||1960||1982||30,310||801,117|
|University of California, Santa Barbara||California||Public||1944||1995||25,057||N||122,168|
|University of California, Santa Cruz||California||Public||1965||2019||19,457||N||86,263|
|University of Chicago||Illinois||Private||1890||1900||14,954||N||394,275|
|University of Colorado Boulder||Colorado||Public||1876||1966||32,775||[g]||N||459,816|
|University of Florida||Florida||Public||1853||1985||49,042||423,154|
|University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign||Illinois||Public||1867||1908||44,520||406,612|
|University of Iowa||Iowa||Public||1847||1909||31,065||N||283,763|
|University of Kansas||Kansas||Public||1865||1909||27,983||N||187,249|
|University of Maryland, College Park||Maryland||Public||1856||1969||37,631||N||713,283|
|University of Miami||Florida||Private||1925||2023||19,402||N||231,001|
|University of Michigan||Michigan||Public||1817||1900||43,426||N||891,125|
|University of Minnesota, Twin Cities||Minnesota||Public||1851||1908||52,376||570,946|
|University of Missouri||Missouri||Public||1839||1908||35,441||163,576|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||North Carolina||Public||1789||1922||29,390||N[h]||N||747,895|
|University of Notre Dame||Indiana||Private||1842||2023||12,809||N||N||109,891|
|University of Oregon||Oregon||Public||1876||1969||22,980||N||N||N||82,242|
|University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania||Private||1740||1900||24,630||N||792,089|
|University of Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania||Public||1787||1974||28,649||N||724,993|
|University of Rochester||New York||Private||1850||1941||10,290||N||309,647|
|University of South Florida||Florida||Public||1956||2023||49,766||N||185,364|
|University of Southern California||California||Private||1880||1969||48,500||N||574,185|
|University of Texas at Austin||Texas||Public||1883||1929||51,000||N||489,827|
|University of Toronto||Ontario||Public||1827||1926||84,000||N||N/A|
|University of Utah||Utah||Public||1850||2019||32,994||N||340,434|
|University of Virginia||Virginia||Public||1819||1904||24,360||N||297,273|
|University of Washington||Washington||Public||1861||1950||43,762||N||1,046,377|
|University of Wisconsin–Madison||Wisconsin||Public||1848||1900||43,275||646,764|
|Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri||Private||1853||1923||14,117||N||606,127|
|State or province||Control||Established||Year joined||Year left||Total students|
|Catholic University of America[i]||Washington, D.C.||Private||1887||1900||2002||5,771|
|Clark University[j]||Massachusetts||Private||1887||1900||1999||3,498 (2019)|
|Iowa State University[k]||Iowa||Public||1858||1958||2022||30,708 (2021)|
|Syracuse University[l]||New York||Private||1870||1966||2011||21,322 (2020)|
|University of Nebraska–Lincoln[m]||Nebraska||Public||1869||1909||2011||25,820 (Fall 2018)|
Map of schools
In 2014, the AAU supported the proposed Research and Development Efficiency Act 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." According to the AAU, "too often federal requirements" for accounting for federal grant money "are ill-conceived, ineffective, and/or duplicative." This wastes the researchers' times and "reduces the time they can devote to discovery and innovation and increases institutional compliance costs."
Similar organizations in other countries
Similar organizations around the world include the Russell Group (United Kingdom), U15 (Germany), League of European Research Universities (Europe), BRICS Universities League (BRICS), Association of East Asian Research Universities (mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan), C9 League (China), Group of Eight (Australia), RU11 (Japan), and the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities (Canada).
- List of higher education associations and alliances
- List of research universities in the United States
- The Association of American Universities was founded by the University of California, The University of Chicago, Catholic University of America, Clark University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin, and Yale University, all of which were its first members.
- 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.
- Although Emory shares a joint engineering department with Georgia Tech, the program is accredited through Georgia Tech.
- While the funding numbers of the Indiana University School of Medicine are reported through IUB, IUSM is accredited through its main campus at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). After IUPUI is dissolved at the end of the 2023–24 academic year, IUSM's accreditation will be through the newly established Indiana University Indianapolis.
- USDA has confirmed that MIT is eligible to apply for grants that are available only to land-grant institutions, the State of Massachusetts chooses to allocate its federal capacity appropriations to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
- The University of California, Berkeley is closely tied with the LCME-accredited University of California, San Francisco, which only provides graduate-level courses. The two universities share a joint program
- The University of Colorado School of Medicine is affiliated with the University of Colorado Boulder, a LCME accredited school of medicine.
- UNC-Chapel Hill offers an ABET accredited Biomedical Engineering degree jointly with North Carolina State University. The engineering courses are offered through the NC State College of Engineering, while the medical courses are offered through UNC-Chapel Hill.
- Departed as a result of "institutional emphases and energies" that differed from the other AAU members.
- Departed because of a shift in the AAU's emphasis to large research universities.
- Iowa State departed claiming that AAU's internal ranking indicators unfairly favor institutions with high levels of NIH funding and noted that its strength is not in biomedical research because the school does not have a medical school.
- Because of a dispute over how to count nonfederal grants, Syracuse voluntarily withdrew from the AAU in 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that after "it 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."
- Removed from the AAU. Chancellor Harvey Perlman said 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. In 2010 Perlman stated that had Nebraska not been part of the AAU, the Big Ten Conference would likely not have invited it to become the athletic conference's 12th member.
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