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Union Institute & University was formed in 1964 as a consortium that included 10 liberal arts colleges. Among them were Hofstra University, Bard College, Antioch College, and Sarah Lawrence College. The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities collaborated with the goal of providing innovative higher education alternatives to working adults. While the educational models developed by the consortium are often described as “non-traditional,” they are actually adaptations of the traditional, tutorial-based models of British and German research universities. But the consortium’s early commitment to student-centered education—a higher education concept that acknowledges students’ prior knowledge and experiences—was an innovative invention in 1964.
In 1964, ten college presidents met at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, to form a consortium, The Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education (UREHE). The consortium changed its name to The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities (UECU) in 1969. UECU was approved as a degree-granting institution in 1971 by the Ohio Board of Regents, and granted candidate for accreditation status by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) in 1972. By 1976, this unique educational institution had developed beyond an experiment in American higher education. Within a few years, the consortium dissolved in favor of a freestanding institution that took on a life of its own.
The 1980s saw a remarkable period of stabilization, growth, and maturation for the university. The university was Accredited by The NCA in 1985. In 1989 UECU was renamed The Union Institute, consisting of the Graduate College (with its School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and School of Professional Psychology) and the College of Undergraduate Studies. The university continued to develop innovative ways of delivering graduate education opportunities, including the HBCU program that focused on doctoral degree options for faculty and administration at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and an Office for Social Responsibility and a Center for Women, based in Washington, D.C.
During the 1990s, the university purchased and renovated two buildings in Cincinnati and worked to have them listed on the National Register for Historic Places. These buildings now house the university’s administrative offices (President’s Office, Business Office, Registrar’s Office, Financial Aid, Communications, etc.), the Cincinnati Academic Center of the Undergraduate College, and the Graduate College, in addition to meeting rooms for seminars and colloquia. Community organizations in the Cincinnati area also make use of these meeting facilities. During this decade, the College of Undergraduate Studies also began operation of four additional centers located in North Miami Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. In late 2001, the university increased its academic program offerings with three new Master of Fine Arts programs, now rooted within the Vermont College of Fine Arts of Union Institute & University, as well as additional undergraduate study options and an innovative, interdisciplinary, online Master of Arts program. Housed at centers in Montpelier and Brattleboro, Vermont, these programs provide a strong bridge for degree progression within the university. In November 2001, the university changed its name to Union Institute & University to better describe its status as a degree granting postsecondary educational institution. A new logo and seal heralded the name change.
Union Institute & University’s enrollment stands at 2,000 students, with more than 15,000 alumni worldwide. The university employs more than 400 staff and full- and part-time faculty across the nation, making Union Institute & University a true national university, spanning from New England to Florida and California, anchored by its headquarters in Cincinnati and serving students from every state and across the globe. Acting as innovative leaders in higher education since 1964, Union Institute & University is among a small group of private, higher education institutions in the United States that serve adult students with a progressive, student-directed model. Union Institute & University’s academic programs and services are the result of four decades of identifying and refining ways to structure and deliver education for adults. Guided by the university’s purpose, four core values form the foundation for learning: academic excellence; interdisciplinary studies; awareness of the social and personal implications of study and scholarship; and the integration of theory and practice in learning. These values adhere to the principle that learning is enhanced through active participation by self-directed students in an interactive, collaborative, tutorial-based process.