University of South Florida


University of South Florida accepts invitation into the Association of American Universities

The University of South Florida has reached a historic milestone by accepting an invitation to join the Association of American Universities (AAU), a prestigious group of the 71 leading research institutions in the United States and Canada.  USF is the first public university in Florida to be invited to join the AAU in nearly 40 years and is now one of two institutions from the State University System of Florida to serve as an AAU member.  

USF is one of six universities in the U.S. announced today as new AAU members. 

Rhea Law

USF President Rhea Law

"The University of South Florida is honored to accept an invitation to become an AAU member and join the most prestigious association in higher education,” USF President Rhea Law said. “This is a historic and momentous achievement for USF. Especially when considering we were founded in 1956, to now officially be recognized by our peers as one of America’s leading research universities, is a shining example of our university community’s determination, innovative spirit and relentless pursuit of excellence. Reaching this milestone only strengthens our ambition to improve lives and positively shape the future of our society."

Membership into the AAU is by invitation only. Prior to today, only four universities have been invited to join in the past decade.

USF has been working toward this goal for more than 15 years, as AAU membership criteria aligns with USF’s mission to positively shape the future for society and transform lives through education, research and innovation.     

Will Weatherford

USF Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford

“Receiving an invitation to join the Association of American Universities is one of the most significant accomplishments in University of South Florida history,” said USF Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford.  “To be asked by our peers to join such a highly regarded group of the top research universities is a credit to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters.  Having an AAU institution located in Tampa Bay will have a major impact on our region and the state of Florida for generations to come.” 

Joining the AAU will allow USF to grow its research profile, as members earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for research.  Membership will also enhance efforts to recruit additional world-class faculty and students to the Tampa Bay region. As an AAU member, USF is even better positioned to drive economic development by helping attract new or expanding businesses to the area, as proximity to the university allows for access to the pipeline of graduates and opportunities for research partnerships.  More information on how USF, the region and state benefit from AAU membership is available here.

AAU considers numerous factors for membership, such as research activity, faculty excellence and the quality of educational programs, as well as graduation rates and number of lower-income students who receive financial aid through the federal Pell Grant program.

“We are very proud to have these six distinguished universities from across the United States join AAU,” AAU President Barbara R. Snyder said. “We look forward to working with all of these universities to continue advancing higher education and laying the scientific foundation that helps keep our economy strong and our nation healthy and safe.”

Of the AAU’s 71 members, USF is the fifth youngest university and one of only six founded after 1950. 

“I’m excited to invite these six diverse institutions to AAU,” said AAU Board Chair and University of Southern California President Carol L. Folt. “AAU members are distinguished by the quality of their education and research. It is a testament to our higher education system that we have this many leading research universities in every corner of our country. Congratulations to the faculty, staff, and students for this recognition of their hard work and their leadership in research and education. We look forward to our joint efforts to continue to transform lives through higher education.”

What others are saying about USF

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo: “I’m so proud of the achievements of USF. Their impact in the state is felt in so many ways including through their expanding pipeline of talent and research that is helping grow Florida’s economy. Congratulations to the Bulls community on this well-deserved recognition!” 

Florida Speaker of the House Paul Renner: “Achieving membership in the AAU is a testament to USF’s longstanding commitment to student success, world-class research and faculty excellence. Joining this prestigious association positions the university to compete for the best talent nationally and accelerates the economic development of the Tampa Bay region and the state of Florida.  This is a very proud moment for our state.” 

Florida Board of Governors Chair Brian Lamb: “For many years, the University of South Florida has changed lives through research, education, and innovation. As a former chair of their board of trustees I’m proud to see USF achieve membership in the prestigious AAU. This historic accomplishment is a tremendous milestone for USF, Tampa Bay, and this great state. Membership in the AAU will provide students and faculty with new academic and research opportunities that seek to address global challenges, creating a transformational impact on generations to come. Congratulations to President Law, Chair Weatherford, and the entire USF community. Go Bulls!”

State University System of Florida Chancellor Ray Rodrigues: “Congratulations to the University of South Florida for achieving this significant milestone. USF has been relentless in their pursuit of academic excellence and has been a national leader in student success and research along the way.  The trajectory of higher education in Florida is unparalleled and this accomplishment is a shining example of that achievement.”

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