Did you study at a French-speaking university? If so, most likely your university was a member of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (Agency of French-speaking Universities). The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, or AUF, is an international association of French-speaking universities that seek to promote education in countries with a French-speaking population. Funded by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (International Organization of French-speaking Countries), or OIF, the AUF seeks to promote a sense of community between French-speaking universities around the world. Currently, AUF has 1,007 member universities across 199 countries on six different continents.
Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, the AUF has been growing since its inception. The organization was founded in 1959 by Jean-Marc Léger, a Canadian journalist for Le Devoir, and André Bachan, the public relations director for the University of Montreal. The duo proposed a collection of French-speaking universities worldwide to centralize funding and education plans for the Francophone world at large. In September 1961, 150 representatives from different French universities came together and established the Association des Universités Partiellement ou Entièrement de Langue Française (AUPELF, or the Association of Partially or Entirely French-speaking Universities).
Since its beginnings, the AUF has undergone many expansions. The AUPELF was expanded to include the Université des Réseaux d’Expression Français (UREF), which was a program for transfer students that sought to connect universities based on research and education across different Francophone countries. In 1993, six years after UREF’s establishment, AUPELF changed its name to AUPELF-UREF. By 1998, the AUF became known as the AUF as it expanded its reach among the Francophone world.
Because of the massive spread of the AUF, the organization’s structure is extremely important to its coherent function. The association is made of several major bodies of control. The general assembly is the main body of the AUF. Every four years, the general assembly’s 774 members sit to create a systematic plan to reach a set of determined goals. The goals and objectives guide the actions and partnerships of the AUF for the next four years. The Association Council functions as a force to create a sense of unity between the member universities. They meet with representatives from all universities and foster a sense of unity and solidarity that bridges the massive cultural differences. Other university representatives are selected to serve on the board of directors, which combines university and government officials to decide on the organization’s direction and its path towards achieving the four-year objectives.
The general assembly elects the AUF President for four-year terms. Among their duties are controlling partnerships, heading the direction of the organization, and ruling the board of directors. The rector is another individual position, elected by the board of directors. Primarily, the rector focuses on implementing the financial obligations and proper funds to the different partners and universities the organization is dealing with. The rector presides over the University Development and cooperation funds. The final body of control is the Scientific Council, which is the body responsible for generating pedagogy and curriculum for the Francophonie universities. Members of the committee are selected for their unique qualifications and experience in the matter of education and seek to better the education of all member universities. Some are selected for their skills in science and technology, while others are selected for their ability to understand and connect across multiple cultures.
Activities in the AUF are classified into four categories: Language and Communication, Economic Development, Scientific Skill Reinforcement, and Education. Language and Communication activities are targeted at supporting the French language via multilingualism and multiculturalism in the universities. They also promote scientific skill development across many categories. These activities direct the curriculum of classes related to language, culture, literature, and education. Economic Development activities are entirely focused on funding the other activities and partnerships of the AUF. Scientific Skill Reinforcement activities bridge the gap between regional offices and scientific departments of the AUF. The most important piece of these activities is to promote scientific research at member universities. Education activities seek to promote research and offer training for teachers and students in high education across the Francophone world.
Partnerships with the AUF are established, along with specific guidelines. First, the partner must help establish
more Francophone universities and give them developmental roles. Second, the partner must seek ties with both the major agencies of the AUF alongside its member universities. Third, the partner must seek to increase development via knowledge sharing, scientific development, or tools for scientific cooperation. The AUF has been asked to partner with the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank on previous occasions.
In 2011, the AUF marked its “Golden Anniversary” as its 50th year connecting Francophone universities. As the AUF becomes older, it increases its presence in the education of Francophone students. With over 1,000 member universities, the AUF is helping further the education of millions of students in colleges and universities worldwide. In the coming years, the AUF seeks to continue playing a massive role in the education that occurs with Francophone universities.