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."

Governance of Colleges & Universities

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

Resisting the Harassment of Faculty

Colleges and universities today are operating in a hostile environment. Faculty and others working in fields characterized by critical thinking and the dissemination of knowledge--such as scientists and journalists--are under attack. The AAUP works toward a reality in which institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good. We believe that faculty play an important role in a free society and that academic freedom requires and supports a democracy that thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research.

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.

Faculty Compensation

Compensation affects all academic professionals. Since 1940, when the Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure declared that both academic freedom and economic security for professors were indispensable, the AAUP has supported fair compensation in a variety of ways.

Copyright, Distance Ed, & Intellectual Property

The world of higher learning is in the midst of change, often driven by technologies that are profoundly affecting the work of faculty members: they are reshaping the processes of teaching and learning, redefining the roles and authority of faculty members in organizing and overseeing the curriculum, and altering the bases for evaluating student (and faculty) performance.


Six regional accreditation bodies, along with dozens of specialized groups, create and implement standards to ensure the quality of the higher education experience. These bodies are non-governmental agencies, made up of their member institutions. Representatives of the institutions meet to create and revise standards, to review the accreditation status of other member institutions, and to consider the admission of applicants to their ranks.

Sexual Harassment and Assault

Policies governing sexual harassment have been at the center of many heated campus debates in recent years. Anita Hill's testimony during the Clarence Thomas hearings raised the nation's consciousness and it remains a contentious issue, particularly on college and university campuses.

Academic Research

Academic research, along with teaching, has long been recognized as a primary responsibility of faculty members, and research accomplishments often bear heavily on tenure decisions. Moreover, research, and the publication of its results, constitutes one way in which academics serve the common good. As the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure proclaims, “Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth.”


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.

Conflicts of Interest

Resources on conflicts of interest, corporate funding and corporate influences

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.

Hiring and Promotions

The AAUP is concerned with all aspects of faculty appointments and the evaluation of faculty for reappointment, promotion, and tenure. The Association's staff regularly advises faculty members about the nature of their concerns under Association standards, and whether and to what extent the Association can be of meaningful assistance to them in helping to resolve their complaints. In addition to providing advice to individual faculty members, the staff works with the AAUP's national committees to develop statements of policy dealing with faculty personnel matters.


The statement which follows was adopted in October 1976 by the Association’s Council. Successive revisions were adopted by the Council in November 1994 and June 1995.

Diversity & Affirmative Action

The AAUP has a longstanding commitment to increasing diversity in higher education. In 1976, the AAUP’s governing Council declared that “the Association is committed to use its procedures and to take measures, including censure, against colleges and universities practicing illegal or unconstitutional discrimination, or discrimination on a basis not demonstrably related to the job function involved, including, but not limited to, age, sex, disability, race, religion, national origin, marital status, or sexual orientation.”

Professional Ethics

The AAUP has long held that academic freedom carries with it duties correlative with rights. These duties are described in the Statement on Professional Ethics, first issued in 1966, and in derivative statements that deal with particular ethical issues, including plagiarism, conflicts of interest, and the recruitment and resignation of faculty members.

Faculty Work & Workload

Few issues in recent years have aroused as much interest outside of the academy as the question of faculty workload. State legislators faced with shrinking resources, calls for more teaching and less research, and demands for greater accountability, responded in various ways: some sought to destroy the tenure system, others attempted to mandate the number of hours faculty must spend in the classroom.

Balancing Family & Academic Work

The work of faculty is—by its very nature—virtually unbounded. In addition to teaching classes, advising students, and serving on departmental committees, faculty members are expected to keep abreast of developments in their fields of specialization by engaging in original research and scholarship, participating in activities of one or more professional societies, and to read the latest research studies produced by their colleagues. There is always a new question to ask, further analysis to complete, or another issue to discuss.


Although the right of professors to evaluate and grade students in their courses may seem obvious, teachers sometimes face the prospect of students who refuse to accept the grade they have received.

Graduate Students

The AAUP's Committee on Graduate and Professional Students works on  issues of special concern to graduate students, such as intellectual and academic freedom, institutional policy, collective bargaining, and those points outlined in the Association’s Statement on Graduate Students (2000). 

The Academic Bill of Rights

Since 2004, nearly two dozen state legislatures have considered legislative proposals challenging the fundamental concept that higher education in the United States is, and should be, free of government control or interference


Minority Serving Institutions

The AAUP is a strong supporter of historically black colleges and universities and their faculty. We are engaging in a multi-year effort to consult with historically black institutions about academic freedom and shared governance, to strengthen academic programs, and raise the stature of these institutions among colleges and universities.

Post-Tenure Review

Post-tenure review is understood as a system of periodic, comprehensive evaluation of tenured faculty that goes beyond traditional forms of evaluation dates back to the early 1980s. While skeptical of the value of post-tenure review, the Association adopted in 1999 a policy, Post-Tenure Review: An AAUP Response, that offers practical recommendations for faculty at institutions where post-tenure is being considered or has been put into effect.


Since 2000, the AAUP’s Committee on Retirement has initiated two major nationwide surveys of faculty retirement policies. The surveys cover early retirement incentive plans, phased retirement plans, and health insurance coverage for retirees. The first survey, published in 2000, responds particularly to concerns raised in the 1990s that the elimination of mandatory retirement would slow voluntary retirement, making it hard for institutions to secure resources for new appointments.

Sanctuary Campus Movement

The sanctuary campus movement calling on campuses to provide a safe space for undocumented students has been growing quickly since the election. In November the AAUP issued a statement saying the following about sanctuary campuses: "Of special importance is the status of those among our students who are undocumented, many of whom have been in this country since early childhood.

Sexual Diversity & Gender Identity

The AAUP advocates the fair and equal treatment of all members of the higher education community. It supports and encourages diversity among students, faculty and administrators.

Teaching Evaluation

AAUP work and policy on teaching evaluation.


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.

Women in the Academic Profession

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.