A Brief History of the Union Institute and University,

With References and a Guide to Sources

David Bates, Ph.D.

Copyright 2002 by author

The Union Institute and University is an experimenting (Fairfield, 1977, pp. 1-30, passim) university without walls (The Union Institute, 1995, pp. 3-5; Fairfield, 1977, pp. 13-15; UECU, 1972, passim). Its headquarters are in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now an independent university, The Union Institute and University originated in 1964 as a consortium of colleges and universities called The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities (UECU), motivated by then-current dissatisfaction with present models of higher education (Ford Foundation, 1972; Rogers, 1977; Fairfield, 1977, pp. ix-xii, pp. 1-30). (For list of participating institutions, vid.: Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, 1972, unnumbered page 3; Fairfield, 1977, p. 2., n 1.) With regard to higher education in general, the members of the consortium were concerned with the increased emphasis on specialization at every level of higher education (Fairfield, 1977, pp. 1-5; Goodman, 1964, pp. 295-310; Jerome, 1970, passim). With regard to doctoral education, the members of the consortium were concerned with the ever-increasing length of time, and so ever-increasing expense, involved in completing doctoral work (Fairfield, 1977, pp. 1-5) and with the increasing tendency among doctoral programs to value the acquisition of particular knowledge and skills with a consequent devaluing of inquiring beyond the bounds of one's area of specialization (Fairfield, ibid.; see also Goodman, ibid.; Jerome, 1970, passim.) A consequence appeared to be the creation and perpetuation of self-concerned isolated domains of ever-more-specialized expert knowledge and lack of any sense that such knowledge can or ought to be shared between domains (vid., e.g., Goodman, ibid.; Berry, 1987, pp. 76-78). This trend toward islands of specialization and narrow learning within the academy appeared responsive to an increased demand within society for expertise (vid. Jerome, 1970, pp. 287-289). UECU noted that as a result an increasing number of adults were, by way of educational background, personal circumstances, or social status, excluded from access to higher education, and consequently under-represented among those within the relatively privileged and powerful ranks of those with higher education (The Union Institute, 1995, pp. 3-5; vid. Fairfield, 1997, pp. ix-xii, pp. 1-30). Acting separately and together as UECU, the members of the consortium experimented with various programs to address these problems. A common thread running through these experimenting programs, undergraduate and graduate alike, was the requirement to perform at least some interdisciplinary study and that student research have social meaning. (Some of these early experiments are mentioned in Fairfield, 1977, p. 2., at n 1.) The principle means of cooperative experimentation among members of the consortium developed as UECU's University Without Walls (UWW) program.

In 1969, UECU was incorporated in the State of Ohio as a degree-granting institution. In 1971, the Ohio Board of Regents authorized UECU to award the B.A., B.S., and the Ph.D (Graduate School of The Union Institute, July, 1989, p. 1). No M.A. or M.S. was offered. In 1970, assisted by funds from the U. S. Office of Education and the Ford and Carnegie foundations (Ford Foundation, 1972, pp. 1-2; Grady, 1989, pp 4-5), UECU began The University without Walls (UWW) program intended to meet the needs of members of the under-represented adult population described above. (Admission was never restricted to members of that population.) The program was designed such that learners could complete their degree programs within a relatively few years, currently for doctoral students a minimum of two. One component of the UWW program was The Union Graduate School, which admitted its first doctoral students in 1970 (Fairfield, 1979, p. 17). When UECU disbanded in 1982 (Grady, 1989), its UWW program remained in operation. In 1989, the UWW was renamed The Union Institute and The Union Graduate School was renamed The Graduate School of The Union Institute (Grady, 1989).

On October 1, 2001, The Union Institute purchased Vermont College, located in Montpelier, VT, from Norwich University. Vermont College programs include low-residency undergraduate studies (B.A.) and graduate studies (M.A, M.Ed., M.F.A. in Visual Arts, Writing, and Writing for Children).

On Novermber 9, 2001, The Union Institute renamed itself The Union Institute and University.

As of March 14, 2002, in addition to The Graduate School and Vermont College, The Union Institute and University includes The College of Undergraduate Studies (awarding the B.A. and B.S.), with centers in Ohio, Florida, and California and a Center for Distance Learning in Cincinnati. Also included are three research units based in Washington, DC, i.e., The Office for Social Responsibility, The Center for Public Policy, and The Center for Women. What was once The Graduate School has become The Graduate College, under which are lodged The School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and The School of Professional Psychology.


Berry, W. (1987). "The loss of the university." In W. Berry, Home economics (pp. 76-97). New York, NY: North Point Press (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Fairfield, R. (1977). Person-centered graduate education. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus. Ford Foundation. (1972.) Letter. 3(7).

Goodman, P. (1964). Reforms and proposals. In P. Goodman, Compulsory mis-education, and The community of scholars (pp. 295-322). New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Grady, J. (1989). The Union Institute acquires a new name, a national historic landmark as its permanent home. (TUI press release dated October 20, 1989). 6 pp. Cincinnati, OH: The Union Institute.

Graduate School of The Union Institute. (July, 1989). Learner Handbook. Cincinnati, OH: The Union Institute.

Jerome, J. (1970). Quality and conscience. In J. Jerome, Culture out of anarchy: The reconstruction of American higher learning (pp. 287-312). New York, NY: Herder and Herder.

Rogers, C. (1977). Foreword. In R. Fairfield, Person-centered graduate education (pp. v-vii). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.

Union Institute. (1995). Doctoral program information 1995-1996. Cincinnati, OH: The Union Institute.

Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities. (1972). University without walls: First report. Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH: UECU. (Available from Antioch College Library.)

Guide to Sources

The archives of The Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities (UECU) are held at the Library of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH. Antioch College's own archives are likely sources of materials, for Antioch's then-president, James Dixon, made college space and resources available to The Union Institute (TUI) when it first came into being.

E. M. Dixon's Antioch: the Dixon era, 1959-1975: Perspectives of James P. Dixon (1991, Saco, ME: Bastille Books) contains many references to and discussions of persons, organizations, and events crucial to the development of TUI. The archives of The Union Institute are at The Union Institute, Cincinnati, OH. Roy Fairfield's Person-centered graduate education (1977, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus) is Fairfield's description of and reflections on his experience as a founding member of The Graduate School and as a member of the first graduate faculty. Although not a history of either UECU or TUI, Fairfield's book is filled with references to documents, individuals, and groups deserving of investigation. Fairfield's and E. M. Dixon's books are also useful guides to individuals, writings, and schools of thought and practice that inspired and informed TUI and its graduate school.