Issues in Higher Education

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is indispensable for quality institutions of higher education. As the AAUP's core policy document states, "institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition."

Shared Governance

Governance of higher education institutions traditionally has been a responsibility shared by  faculty, administrators, and trustees. 

Collective Bargaining

Academic collective bargaining includes the unionization of all sectors of the higher-education workforce—from tenure-line faculty to graduate student employees, and from academic professionals to support staff. The growth of academic collective bargaining has occurred in two waves. The first was the expansion of faculty and support staff collective bargaining fueled by the changes in federal and state labor laws during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The second was the rapid increase in graduate-employee unionization during the 1990s in response to the increased use of graduate-employee labor.

Contingent Faculty Positions

Who are "contingent faculty"? Depending on the institution, they can be known as adjuncts, postdocs, TAs, non-tenure-track faculty, clinical faculty, part-timers, lecturers, instructors, or nonsenate faculty. What they all have in common: they serve in insecure, unsupported positions with little job security and few protections for academic freedom. And they are the vast majority of US faculty today. Something needs to change.

Gender and Sexuality in Higher Education

Women academics sometimes face unique challenges to their entry and advancement in the academic profession, among them potential inequities in salary and promotion rates, sexual harassment, and discriminatory treatment.


The principal purpose of tenure is to safeguard academic freedom, which is a requisite condition for all who teach and conduct research in higher education. When faculty members can lose their positions because of their speech or their publications, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities. The AAUP insists that all full-time faculty members are to be considered eligible for tenure and supports tenure for part-time faculty members whose duties consist of teaching or research conducted at a professional level.

Intellectual Property and Copyright

The AAUP believes it is appropriate to issue a warning: your intellectual property is in danger. In trying to reassert the principles inherent in the US Constitution, two centuries of patent law, and a landmark 2011 US Supreme Court decision, the first task is educational. Everyone on campus needs to learn more about the law, the issues at stake, and the rights they can assert through collective action.


Recent calls by university administrators for civility have raised concerns over their potential to restrict extramural speech of faculty members. The AAUP has defended the right of faculty members to speak as citizens, since its inception.

Sanctuary Campus Movement

The sanctuary campus movement calls on campuses to provide a safe space for and adopt policies to protect students and other members of the campus community who are undocumented immigrants. In November 2017 the AAUP issued a statement supporting the sanctuary campus movement (read the full statement, The Atmosphere on Campus in the Wake of the Election, here).