Skip to main content

Association of American Universities records

Identifier: MS-0197

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

This collection represents the extant records of the AAU since its inception. Due to the decentralized nature of the organization in its early years, documentation of the early years is sparse. It is possible that the personal papers of the early AAU secretaries or the archives of their universities might have more of the early AAU records.

The records (1900-82) consist of correspondence, membership files, committee minutes and reports, annual conference materials, and general office files. Especially well-documented are the post-Bok report years (1977-82), although the Executive Committee actions are well-documented from 1970 to l982. Also well-documented are the activities of the Council on Federal Relations.

The records are divided into four series. Series 1 is General Files (1900-77), Series 2 is Office Files (1977-82), Series 3 is the Association of Graduate Schools (1977-82), and Series 4 is the Council on Federal Relations (1969-77).


  • Creation: 1900-1982


Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Institutional History

The Association of American Universities was founded in 1900 by the fourteen American universities that then offered the Ph.d. degree. The purpose of the Association was to attempt to standardize higher education. At various stages in its history the AAU has concentrated on accrediting universities, sponsoring research and representing the interests of research universities to the federal government. This last activity is overseen by the AAU's Council on Federal Relations which was organized in 1969.

As the focus of the AAU work changed, so did the control. In the early years the AAU was run by the member universities' presidents. The presidents attended the meetings and served terms as AAU secretary. As the work of the AAU became increasingly accreditation of colleges and universities, the member institutions' deans became more involved. This was the case until the 1940s when the AAU began questioning the effectiveness and the time involved in accreditation. In 1948 the AAU voted to discontinue accrediting. At the same time they created a separate organization for the deans. The Association of Graduate Schools in the Association of American Universities is a forum for member universities' deans while the AAU itself is run by the universities' presidents.

The structure of the AAU has changed several times since its inception in 1900. In the early years the Association was co- ordinated by a voluntary secretary who was the President or the Dean of one the member universities. The "office" of the AAU moved from campus to campus with the secretary. The AAU "office" continued to move with the secretary until the 1960s when a permanent office of the AAU was established in Washington. The first paid executive secretary was Charles P. McCurdy, Jr. in 1968. He was followed by Charles V. Kidd who served from 1969 until (?). As a result of the latest re-organization based on the Bok report in 1976, the AAU is run by a paid staff headed by a President. The first president was Thomas A. Bartlett (1978?- 1982?). He was succeeded in 1983 by Robert M. Rosenzweig.

The AAU is composed of 54 American and two Canadian universities. Of the 54 American members, half are public institutions, half are private. The invitation of new members, which requires the assent of three-fourths of the membership, is considered every three years.

Each member university is represented in the AAU by its chief executive officer, one of whom serves as the AAU Chairman. The standing committees are: the Executive Committee, Graduate Education Committee, Biomedical Research Committee, Research Libraries Committee, and Science and Research Committee.

For more information on the AAU see William K. Selden, "The Association of American Universities: An Enigma in Higher Education." Graduate Journal. A copy is in Appendix 1.


228.65 Cubic Feet (175 record center cartons, 15 letter size document boxes, 4 letter half-size document boxes, 7 legal size document boxes, 1 custom box (14.75 x 11.75 x 1.5 inches))

Language of Materials



The records were donated by the Association of American Universities in September 1987.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Cynthia H. Requardt in September 1989.

Liz Beckman revised some file/item titles in this finding aid in January 2024 to bring them into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.

Association of American Universities records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA