Thursday, September 11, 2014

AAU for UGA?

Most people have never heard of the Association of American Universities. Say "AAU" and odds are, if anything at all comes to mind, it's amateur sports. Actually, the AAU is an elite club of the very top research universities in the U.S. and Canada. Sixty-two of them.

UGA (where I teach) would dearly love to belong. You can't come out and say it, of course. How academically gauche. You can't apply. Can't beg. No, it works like this:
Membership in AAU is by invitation and is based on the high quality of programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in a number of fields, as well as general recognition that a university is outstanding by reason of the excellence of its research and education programs.  
There's a policy on membership. It's long, it's full of "indicators," (academics wrote it, after all) and really it boils down to grants and research productivity. UGA's lack of major medical and engineering programs does hurt. So who does belong? You can see the list yourself. What I did is download it and sort it by year to see what schools have been added most recently, and how often a school gets asked to the prom. Let's take a peak:

2012 Boston University (most recent)
2010 Georgia Tech

Okay, let's stop right there. Who imagines Georgia Tech would never be happy to see Georgia join its club? Luckily it requires a three-fourths vote to be invited, so Tech alone couldn't stop us. And yet, and yet.

2001 Stony Brook University
2001 Texas A&M

Okay, I know nothing about Stony Brook other than I love the name. A&M, it I know, and am not surprised. Good school.

1996 Univ Cal-Davis
1996 Univ Cal-Irvine

So 1996 is Cal Year. Funny, as Cal-Davis is one of UGA's "peer institutions." So are several others in the club (University of Florida, UNC-Chapel Hill, etc.). Oddly (another post, another day) few of UGA's self-identified "peer" universities list UGA as their peer institution. There's a good story in there somewhere.

1995 Emory University
1995 Univ Cal-Santa Barbara

Emory is another school likely to be less than enamored with the idea of the nearby football factory being invited into its nerdhouse. As you can no doubt see, membership comes in batches, sometimes several years apart (the biggest gap seems to be 9 years, unless I'm miscounting, from 2001 to 2010 when Tech joined). Frankly, given its world-class program, I'm surprised it took that long for Tech to get in.

Will UGA ever get an invite? I'm betting yes. The latest USN&WR rankings name it the 20th best public university in the country. While I haven't studied the rankings closely, UGA is higher on that list than many AAU members. To be clear, this is an apples and oranges comparison. AAU membership is more focused on research and faculty productivity, along with other "indicators," a few of which have to do with actually educating students.

If I were to bet, after studying the list and how often schools are added, I'd predict UGA gets an invite by 2017.

All it needs is 47 out of 62 votes.

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