Yale will welcome the presidents of many of the nation’s top universities and hold panels on issues concerning higher education such as visa reform when it hosts the Association of American Universities meeting today and Tuesday.

The AAU, an association of 62 research universities in the United States and Canada, convenes twice a year: once in Washington, D.C. and once at a member institution. Yale President Richard Levin said this year it was Yale’s turn to host the conference, which AAU spokesperson Barry Toiv said consists of sessions on several issues, including university-community relations, the reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act, and other national matters important to higher education.

Yale has been a member of the AAU since 1900.

“I am looking forward to welcoming the group to Yale this week,” Levin said.

During the conference, university presidents, including Harvard President Lawrence Summers, will attend several sessions on international issues affecting research universities, Toiv said. While Toiv said the AAU is not primarily a political organization, panel members will discuss issues related to the federal government, such as the funding of federal research, ways to preserve higher education for young people regardless of their income, and visa reform.

Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary of homeland security for border and transportation security policy, will discuss the government’s work on student visa issues at a talk today.

The AAU will also reference Levin’s work on promoting reform of the federal visa-granting system, an issue Toiv said is important to all AAU member campuses.

“[Visa reform] has been a collective effort, but Yale has played an important role,” Toiv said. “Levin has spoken out on this issue a lot with national leaders and traveled to China and other places where this has been a big issue.”

Last spring, Levin and administrators at other leading universities began putting pressure on the Bush administration to make the visa system more student-friendly.

Levin, who will welcome the group at an opening session Monday, said Yale will not just serve as the conference’s host. The University will also contribute to the meeting’s discussions on the topic of how universities can foster better community relations. AAU members will be taken on a tour of Yale’s campus and the University’s work with New Haven neighborhoods — including the promotion of science-based industry at Science Park — will be showcased, as well as its collaborations with the mayor’s office, local aldermen, venture capitalists and real estate developers.

“Yale will be fairly involved at this week’s conference,” Levin said. “We’ll be talking about Yale’s involvement in New Haven as an example for others.”

Taking a more global perspective, the presidents will attend several sessions on international issues that affect research universities, Toiv said. The AAU has also planned a discussion on the state of academia in Europe and how the United States can maintain its leadership role and competitive edge in research, he said.

In the mission statement posted on its Web site, the AAU says it seeks to assist members in developing positions on national issues that affect academic research and graduate education. The association also discusses many institutional issues, including undergraduate education.