Friday, December 9, 2016


By AAU, I don't mean sports, I mean the Association of American Universities, the 62 (so far) top research universities in North America. UGA would love to be invited. That sticky stuff? That's UGA administrative drool -- at the notion of being asked to sit at the big kids university table.

So far, it ain't happened.

I've written about this before, most recently here in which I looked at world university research rankings to show UGA is better than at least a few of the members, measured by these rankings. For example, in those data, UGA is 204th worldwide, far better than AAU member University of Oregon, which is 342nd.

The AAU tends to invite a school every five or 10 years, give or take. It last invited a school in 2012 (Boston University, the first private school invited since 1995). Before that, it was Georgia Tech, our friends just down the road. Of the last 10 schools invited, eight were public universities, I suppose because all the really good privates were already in.

You can see the full list here. It started back in 1900 with 12 schools, nine of them privates with the usual suspects (Harvard, et al.). By 1922 they'd invited 10 more. In total, 36 schools are public, 26 private.

There are specific criteria to be invited, plus it requires a vote of the members. As Emory and Georgia Tech are already sitting at the table, it's hard to say if UGA would or would not get their votes. Looking at the years schools joined, it's really hard to see a trend. Counting backwards, here are the gaps between new members: 2, 9, 5, 1, 6, 4, 3, 8, 5. So there's that big 9-year gap, but also a 1-year gap. This excludes the 2012 entry of Boston University, so before that first "2" you could add a 4 or 5, depending on when you count 2016 or 2017.

My prediction? UGA may get an invite in the next five years, but I would not be surprised if it never comes about. In the SEC, Florida, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt are members. Some of those have the advantages of med schools, engineering schools, or both -- key to producing the kinds of grant money so respected by the AAU. Georgia certainly ranks with those SEC brethren, and indeed that pretty much exhausts the list of quality academic SEC schools, but I just can't tell if AAU is ready to commit to the G.

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