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Government-University Partnership

The Government-University Partnership



The federal government has fostered a unique partnership with America’s preeminent research universities for the last 70 years. This extraordinary partnership has resulted in astounding leaps in technological innovation, improved public health and well-being, sustained a dynamic American economy, and has helped build an unmatched military superiority. 

It all began when former President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act nearly two centuries ago. His faith in teaching, learning, and research established the public land-grant university with three primary missions: education, research, and public service. 

Near the end of World War II, visionary Vannevar Bush wrote to then-President Harry Truman calling for (1) robust federal investment in basic research, to be conducted primarily at research universities, and (2) to use this research enterprise to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. His inspiration enabled the creation of the National Institutes of Health in the 1940s and the National Science Foundation in 1950. This newly-minted government-university partnership then took off with the 1957 Russian launch of the Sputnik satellite, propelling the United States into a scientific renaissance and to a global scientific preeminence. 


Today, our public and private research universities are educating tomorrow’s leaders while still answering the calls for solutions to our nation’s problems. These universities:

  • educate thousands of undergraduate and graduate students to be the next generation of leaders in their professional or academic fields and in their communities;
  • conduct groundbreaking research and scholarship central to innovation and economic growth, and to advancements in health, technology, energy, national security, and knowledge in the full array of disciplines; and
  • are committed to service: by transferring discoveries to the marketplace, by improving education at all levels of society, and by contributing to economic development in their states and communities.

Much of the modern advances we enjoy today are a direct result of this extraordinary partnership. MRI’s, smartphones, the internet, chemotherapy, and other biomedical advances are possible because of our nation’s historically profound commitment to research and education. AAU and its member universities are committed to renewing and fostering this partnership to ensure American society can continue to reap its benefits.