The International Association of Universities was founded in December 1950 in Nice, France. The initial idea for the Association dates back to the 1930s, yet had to wait until 1947 when the formal call to create the Association was issued at the 3rd UNESCO General Conference. UNESCO went on to organise the Preparatory Conference of University Representatives at Utrecht University in 1948, where the support for the official structure for this global Association was secured.

Its 70-year history is summarised here. Moving to recent times, during the 15th General Conference (2016), the Members identified four key priority areas for the IAU strategy: leadershipinternationalizationsustainable development and digital transformation of higher education. These themes were reaffirmed during the 16th General Conference in 2022. The President and the Administrative Board members steer the work of the Association within these areas.

Over time, IAU has achieved, and continues to achieve, its objectives through knowledge development and sharing, trend analysis, specialised publications and portals, advisory services, training and peer-to-peer learning, and global advocacy and representation. IAU’s involvement in international initiatives is increasingly prominent and multi-layered.

IAU advocates for higher education as a global common good, essential to the development of sustainable societies. Our promotion of opportunities is based on trust, respect and mutual understanding to highlight the role of universities as key actors contributing to creating a sustainable future for our planet and for future generations. Its work programme on Higher Education and Sustainable Development is now core to its work.