Association of American Universities

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Seal of the Association of American Universities

The Association of American Universities ( AAU , German  Association of American Universities ) is an organization of leading North American research universities, which is committed to the promotion of academic research and teaching in North America .


Since the founding of the Johns Hopkins University in 1876, the American universities had been based on the German model and based on the Humboldtian educational ideal of the unity of research and teaching. American students traveled to Europe to do their PhD, and the opinion there about the American graduation was not exactly flattering. The problem in America was that the higher education or college degrees were not centrally regulated. So you could get a doctorate at some "schools" or "colleges" called universities. This practice damaged the reputation of the discerning universities, so they planned a change.

Presidents Benjamin Ide Wheeler of the University of California, Berkeley , Charles William Eliot of Harvard University , William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago , Seth Low of Columbia University and Daniel Coit Gilman of Johns Hopkins University invited the in February 1900 14 leading universities in Chicago for a conference. The aim of this meeting, which led to the founding of the Association of American Universities, was according to the invitation letter:

  1. to create greater equality in the conditions under which students can obtain candidates for doctoral degrees from various American universities, and thereby solve the problem of emigration. Graduate schools lead to a doctorate.
  2. to raise the view overseas above one's own doctoral degree
  3. raise the standard in their own weaker institutions.

In addition to the 14 founding members, a university can only become a member of the AAU if it is appointed by society on the basis of its services. By 1909, eight more universities had been added, so that half were private and half public.

The organization provides a forum for its members to develop and implement institutional and national educational guidelines as well as to discuss topics in the field of academic research and teaching.


Today, 59 American and 2 Canadian universities belong to the association. The admission of new members is discussed approximately every three years. Universities can only join the organization by invitation. At least three quarters of the current members must agree to the admission of a new university. Only universities with outstanding achievements in research and teaching are accepted.

Members and their year of admission:

State Universities (34)

Private Universities (25)

Canadian Universities (2)

former members

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