Jayhawks Rising: Core Foundations: AAU Membership and Why it Matters

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, 9:03 a.m.
KU Lawrence Faculty, Staff and Affiliates

Dear Colleague,

What does it mean to be one of just 65 research universities—only 37 of them public institutions—holding membership in the Association of American Universities? Chancellor Doug Girod said it well in a recent video on our core foundations, “The advantage of being a member, beyond being recognized as one of the top research programs nationally, is that we have greater opportunities to receive federal funding for research that improves public health, addresses national challenges, and contributes to the nation’s economic strength.” He also pointed to AAU’s advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., for research and higher education funding and for policy and regulatory issues affecting research universities—all of which, he said, provides great benefit to the University of Kansas.

Equally important, membership in the AAU elevates and expands KU’s overall reputation, which is critical to our ability to continue to recruit talented students, outstanding staff, and innovative faculty and scholars. Students who have exposure to a wide range of interdisciplinary research that blends the best of liberal arts and sciences with professional disciplines such as humanities, music, social sciences, business, education, journalism, architecture, design, law and social welfare are provided with exceptional scholarship and critical-thinking skills that equip them to succeed in a global society.

Membership in the AAU, which KU has held since 1909, is one of the five core foundations that inform Jayhawks Rising. Many of the AAU indicators are included in the strategic plan’s outcome metrics, supporting our mission to “educate leaders, build healthy communities, and make discoveries that change the world.”

Vice Chancellor for Research Simon Atkinson, who also appeared in the video, reported that the No. 1 indicator AAU leaders pay attention to is the level of competitively awarded federal research expenditures. He stated, “Success in this measure says that expert peer reviewers for NIH, NSF, the Department of Education and other federal agencies recognize the novelty, rigor, and significance of the work our researchers propose in their grant applications.”

While KU has been on an upward trajectory in federal research expenditures the last few years—topping $187 million in 2021—our peers are increasing their performance here as well, which has kept us in a comparatively low position in the AAU. KU’s total research and development expenditures of nearly $386 million in 2021 include, along with federal R&D, expenditures from funding by state and local government, private industry/business, nonprofit organizations and other nonfederal sources.

Continued focus on initiatives such as Research Rising, along with other objectives and strategies in the Research & Discovery institutional priority of Jayhawks Rising, are key to a robust research enterprise that keeps us growing and innovating in areas of critical importance regionally and globally and, at the same time, strengthens our position in the AAU. For more information, please visit jayhawksrising.ku.edu.

Thank you for all you do for KU.

Together, we are Jayhawks Rising.



Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor