• August 28, 2015

Georgia Institute of Technology Wins Rare Invitation to Join the AAU


Georgia Tech

Membership in the Association of American Universities reflects, in part, work by the Georgia Tech Research Institute, which collaborated with Emory University to develop microneedles that can deliver flu vaccines.

The Association of American Universities, making its first expansion in nearly a decade, announced Wednesday that it has invited the Georgia Institute of Technology to become a member. Georgia Tech is the 63rd university to join the selective group, which represents the interests of research institutions in the halls of the federal government.

The invitation, eagerly sought and immediately accepted, was described by both the association and Georgia Tech as affirming recognition of the institution as one of the nation's top graduate research universities.

"We're very excited," Georgia Tech's president, G.P. (Bud) Peterson, said in an interview. Membership puts the university in the room during important national policy discussions, he said. "When the president, Congress, industry, business want to try to understand the position of academia, one of the places they often go is the AAU," he said, "and they'll seek advice, guidance, and input from that organization on a whole host of issues."

There is also a prestige factor. "When you look at the member institutions in AAU, these are some of the finest institutions in the country, and Georgia Tech is proud and honored to have been invited to participate," Mr. Peterson said.

The AAU extended the invitation after studying Georgia Tech for several years, said the association's president, Robert M. Berdahl. "Georgia Tech has clearly emerged as a very, very strong research and graduate institution," Mr. Berdahl said. Before Georgia Tech, the two most recent admissions were the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Texas A&M University, both in 2001. (See an interactive timeline and map of admitted institutions.)

AAU affiliation has become a standard thumbnail definition of the prominence of a research institution. The eligibility criteria include objective factors such as the amount of federal grants and the number of faculty awards and research citations. Georgia Tech pulled in $281.2-million in federal research money in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to the National Science Foundation. That was the second-largest total of any comprehensive American academic institution that was not an AAU member.

Criteria also include a subjective assessment by current members of whether they feel a particular institution is worthy of joining them, with a three-fourths approval vote required for admission.

Georgia Tech made its case by emphasizing the quality of its programs and their breadth, especially the university's emphasis on exploring the ways in which scientific exploration affects public policy, Mr. Peterson said.

That emphasis includes ties between the sciences and the university's schools of public policy and international affairs, Mr. Peterson said. "We have very specific areas that we work in," he said, "and that is really focused on the role and impact of science, technology and engineering on society."

Mr. Peterson came to Georgia Tech last April, after serving three years as chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, another AAU member. He said that he couldn't necessarily identify a specific benefit that the Boulder campus gained from AAU membership, though he cited possible examples as including intensive discussions among members about security options following the April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, as well as assessments of the economic stimulus measure approved last year by Congress.

Although the AAU doesn't accept applications, Georgia Tech made some lobbying efforts over the years, Mr. Peterson said. "I'd be a little disingenuous if I said that we just ignored this question, quite honestly, and didn't pay any attention to it," he said.

Mr. Berdahl said AAU members have "been watching Georgia Tech for some time," and had intended to wait for the National Research Council to issue a national review of graduate programs before making a final decision about any possible new candidates.

That review, however, has been delayed several times and is still not complete. Mr. Berdahl said that, for Georgia Tech, the AAU "concluded that we had gathered enough data that we didn't think that anything that might appear in the NRC would be contradictory to that and that we couldn't wait longer, and we should go forward."


1. 11260805 - April 21, 2010 at 04:38 pm

Guess the AAU is going to have to change the masthead tag on their website...

2. rmelton5 - April 21, 2010 at 04:38 pm

Would be nice to have a link to the complete list.

3. janacat - April 21, 2010 at 04:47 pm


4. kurtosis - April 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm

"Georgia Tech pulled in $281.2-million in federal research money in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to the National Science Foundation. That was the largest total of any comprehensive American academic institution that was not an AAU member."
This is not true. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (not in the AAU) pulled in $303 million. (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10311/pdf/tab31.pdf)

Also, I think the interesting side story is which schools might be asked in the future. From federal research funding alone, the non-AAU ranking for $200+ million would look like:
- UAB, BU, Cincinnati, CO State.
Ranked by overall research funding for $300+ million, though, the list shifts and two schools (BU, CSU) exit:
- UAB, LSU, UMD-Baltimore, NCSU, UGA, Cincinnati, UIC.

Wonder if we'll hear of another invite this year?

5. myemotan - April 21, 2010 at 11:09 pm

The List

Member Institutions and Years of Admission

Brandeis University (1985)
Brown University (1933)
California Institute of Technology (1934)
Carnegie Mellon University (1982)
Case Western Reserve University (1969)
Columbia University (1900)
Cornell University (1900)
Duke University (1938)
Emory University (1995)
Georgia Institute of Technology (2010)
Harvard University (1900)
Indiana University (1909)
Iowa State University (1958)
The Johns Hopkins University (1900)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1934)
McGill University (1926)
Michigan State University (1964)
New York University (1950)
Northwestern University (1917)
The Ohio State University (1916)
The Pennsylvania State University (1958)
Princeton University (1900)
Purdue University (1958)
Rice University (1985)
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (1989)
Stanford University (1900)
Stony Brook University-State University of New York (2001)
Syracuse University (1966)
Texas A&M University (2001)
Tulane University (1958)
The University of Arizona (1985)
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (1989)
University of California, Berkeley (1900)
University of California, Davis (1996)
University of California, Irvine (1996)
University of California, Los Angeles (1974)
University of California, San Diego (1982)
University of California, Santa Barbara (1995)
The University of Chicago (1900)
University of Colorado at Boulder (1966)
University of Florida (1985)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1908)
The University of Iowa (1909)
The University of Kansas (1909)
University of Maryland, College Park (1969)
University of Michigan (1900)
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1908)
University of Missouri-Columbia (1908)
University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1909)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1922)
University of Oregon (1969)
University of Pennsylvania (1900)
University of Pittsburgh (1974)
University of Rochester (1941)
University of Southern California (1969)
The University of Texas at Austin (1929)
University of Toronto (1926)
University of Virginia (1904)
University of Washington (1950)
The University of Wisconsin-Madison (1900)
Vanderbilt University (1950)
Washington University in St. Louis (1923)
Yale University (1900)

6. 12076763 - April 22, 2010 at 08:10 am

Number 4/Kurtosis, thank you for pointing out the University of Alabama at Birmingham's federal research funding. An earlier version of this article named Georgia Tech as top among comprehensive universities that were not AAU members in FY06; actually, it was second, behind Birmingham. By comprehensive, we mean not free-standing medical schools or biomedical research institutions. Birmingham, in addition to having a medical school and a focus on biomedical research, offers programs in the arts, business, engineering, and humanities.

Jeffrey Brainard
Manager of Editorial Data Research
Chronicle of Higher Education

7. 12076763 - April 22, 2010 at 08:16 am

In FY08, that is. -- Jeff Brainard

8. physicsprof - April 22, 2010 at 09:48 am

Another example of preoccupation of our educational society with rankings.

9. jaysanderson - April 22, 2010 at 11:29 am

What an oddly interesting image at the top of the story. A tank on a tilted platform and some sort of antenna that appears to have been photoshopped. Odd.

10. tritiummy - April 22, 2010 at 12:28 pm

jaysanderson- agreed.

What the heck is going on in that picture?

11. physicsprof - April 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

google it


12. jaysanderson - April 22, 2010 at 03:54 pm

Thanks, physics prof. The antenna still looks photoshopped, but perhaps it's classified. In any case, VERY cool technology. Good for Ga Tech.

13. locutus - April 22, 2010 at 06:49 pm

I'm surprised they weren't already in.

14. princeton67 - April 22, 2010 at 06:57 pm

"Georgia and Georgia Tedch were among only four schools who failed to graduate at least half of their football players, the NCAA said in its latest report....At both schools, just 48% of the football players who started classes from 1998 - 2001 earned degress within six years."

Worst Graduatio rates for the 2010 March Madness:
Men's Teams, Georgia Tech 38% (9th worst of 64 teams)

Top Graduate school, maybe, but the usual college hypocrisy of "student-athletes" at the undergraduate level.

15. suzannewayne - April 23, 2010 at 05:58 am

April 23 - 5:57 am - the Chronicle has changed the picture- I wonder why?

16. sahara - April 26, 2010 at 02:47 pm

McGill University is in Canada, n'est-ce pas?

17. eliffmavi - April 28, 2010 at 04:43 am

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