Press Release

Association of American Colleges and Universities Releases New Guiding Vision of Liberal Education

Washington, DC—May 4, 2020—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) today released a new vision of excellence in undergraduate education. Titled What Liberal Education Looks Like: What It Is, Who It’s For, and Where It Happens, the vision clearly describes the learning all students need for success in an uncertain future and for addressing the compelling issues we face as a democracy and as a global community—regardless of where they study, what they major in, or what their career goals are. The release of the vision was announced in a video message by AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella.

“In preparing for a post-pandemic world, colleges and universities face a new sense of urgency around identifying more flexible financial models, while safeguarding high-quality, equitable, and inclusive learning environments,” Pasquerella said. “To help guide higher education at this time of unparalleled transformation and uncertainty, What Liberal Education Looks Like presents a clear vision of educational excellence that is grounded in equity and inclusion.”

What Liberal Education Looks Like depicts the vibrant forms of liberal education emerging across American higher education, at institutions of all types, through the pursuit of quality, equity, and inclusion as inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing goals of college education in a democratic society. It describes the economic and civic value of liberal education, its relevance to students’ career aspirations, and its essential role in equipping students for lifelong learning, civic involvement, and personal flourishing.

In response to challenges in five key areas, What Liberal Education Looks Like also calls for (1) advocacy of the vision, within higher education and beyond; (2) renewed and reinvigorated commitment to the civic and democratic purposes of higher education; (3) making equity a pervading focus of educational reform and innovation; (4) ensuring that college and university campuses are places of welcome and belonging; and (5) addressing issues of affordability.

What Liberal Education Looks Like was developed in consultation with multiple stakeholders, including the AAC&U board of directors, members of the AAC&U Presidents’ Trust, and representatives of institutional and affiliate members from a broad range of associations and every sector of American higher education. In addition to serving as a resource for AAC&U member campuses, this new vision will guide the programmatic and advocacy work of the association.

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,400 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.