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Specifies the person's relationship(s) to the institution in broad categories such as student, faculty, staff, alum, etc. (See controlled vocabulary).

Basic values

faculty, student, staff, alum, member, affiliate, employee, library-walk-in


Institutions may use custom or different values, but the above are most common and implemented by most institutions.


member is intended to include faculty, staff, student, and other persons with a full set of basic privileges that go with membership in the university community (e.g., they are given institutional calendar privileges, library privileges and/or VPN accounts). It could be glossed as "member in good standing of the university community."

The member affiliation MUST be asserted for people carrying one or more of the following affiliations:

  • faculty
  • staff
  • student
  • employee

Note: Holders of the affiliation alum are not typically members since they are not eligible for the full set of basic institutional privileges enjoyed by faculty, staff and students.


There are significant differences in practice between identity providers in the way they define faculty, staff and employee and the logical relationships between the three. In particular, there are conflicting definitions of staff and employee from country to country that make those values particularly unreliable in any international context.

The affiliate value indicates that the holder has some definable affiliation to the university NOT captured by any of faculty, staff, student, employee, alum and/or member. Typical examples might include event volunteers, parents of students, guests and external auditors. There are likely to be widely varying definitions of affiliate across institutions. Given that, affiliate is of dubious value in federated, inter-institutional use cases.

For the sake of completeness, if for some reason the institution carries digital identity information for people with whom it has no affiliation according to the above definitions, the recommendation is simply not to assert affiliation values for those individuals.

library-walk-in: This term was created to cover the case where physical presence in a library facility grants someone access to electronic resources typically licensed for faculty, staff and students. In recent years the library-walk-in provision has been extended to cover other cases such as library users on the campus network, or those using on-campus workstations. Licensed resource providers have often been willing to interpret their contracts with licensees to accept this broader definition of library-walk-in, though specific terms may vary. The presence of other affiliation values neither implies nor precludes the affiliation library-walk-in.