- The Association of American Universities, a highly selective organization representing research institutions, has added six colleges to its ranks, it announced this week.
- Arizona State University, George Washington University, the University of California, Riverside, the University of Miami, the University of Notre Dame and the University of South Florida accepted invitations to join AAU.
- This brings the number of AAU institutions up to 71, including 69 U.S. colleges and two Canadian universities, McGill University and the University of Toronto.
AAU’s membership roster has long been a source of tension in the higher ed world. Critics have said it is exclusionary, though it wields significant lobbying influence. In recent years, the organization has tended to add more institutions while cycling out members, including by pressuring them to leave.
This was the case in 2001 when Stony Brook University and Texas A&M University, joined AAU while Clark University, in Massachusetts, and Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., left around the same time.
At the time, the two departing institutions said they could not meet the research standards AAU set for its members.
In a statement, AAU President Barbara Snyder praised the group's new members, calling attention to Arizona State’s and UC Riverside’s status as Hispanic-serving institutions. UC Riverside also serves large shares of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students.
“We look forward to working with all of these universities to continue advancing higher education and laying the scientific foundation that helps keep our economy strong and our nation healthy and safe,” Snyder said.
Chris Marsicano, an educational studies professor at Davidson College, Thursday wrote on Twitter that with college rankings systems “in disarray, the company a school keeps will increasingly become an indicator of prestige.”
His comments come after dozens of colleges have said they will no longer participate in U.S. News & World Report’s undergraduate, law, and medical school rankings.
“Groups like the AAU and, yes, even athletic conferences will gain a greater role in determining institutional prestige,” Marsicano wrote.
Marsicano also suggested that some of AAU’s members might chafe at being associated with institutions that the public perceives as less prestigious.
AAU has only invited a handful of universities to its membership in the past decade. Tufts University joined AAU in 2021, Dartmouth College, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Utah joined in 2019, and Boston University joined in 2012.