Domuni University, under the jurisdiction of the Master of the Order, was founded by the French Dominicans in 1998. The history of its development mirrors its mode of operation: it is communal, international, and online.
Peru: The Origins
French Dominican Fr Michel van Aerde, OP, who was assigned to minister in Peru, used the Internet for the first time when he was there in 1997. Those were still the very early stages of the world wide web. Nearly 4000 metres above sea-level in the heart of the Andes mountains, in the midst of a time of deep suffering after the Sendero Luminoso civil war, the Internet had become a means for people in the region to connect to more advanced centers of study and communication.
It is within the context of Latin-American theology that the idea of Domuni University was born: Domuni was conceived of in the midst of the poorest of the poor and for the poorest of the poor. In using technology, Domuni made use of the least expensive means of Internet communication by uploading academic texts online (rather than providing video and audio lectures, which would only benefit the more fortunate). Domuni continues to make use of written material because it is the fastest way to communicate familiarity and knowledge. Next, in joining with those who are poor, a strategy allowing for a flexible flow of study was adopted, since the poor are severely limited by family and work responsibilities. Finally, the implemented pedagogical strategy was oriented towards those who cannot benefit from an education that is overly structured and regulated. Methodological courses were added to the curriculum as a means of offering further assistance.
The Dominican tradition is rooted in communication and exchange. An encounter with technology, based on a model of exchange, was therefore an inevitable step in the development of the Order.
Toulouse: A Starting Point
Having been elected Provincial of the Province of Toulouse in July 1998, Fr Michel had the opportunity to present his project to Fr Hervé Ponsot, OP, a former HEC, who was an IT expert and who was very enthusiastic about the idea of an online university. He named this exciting project "Domuni" and created the first website. Domuni was born.
During the early years, Domuni developed rather slowly. By nature, it was slowed down by the early limitations of the Internet. It did, however, grow one step at a time, thanks to a network of dedicated professors, most of whom were Dominican friars. Their courses were made available online and the first students registered for them. The introduction of interactive seminars took time as well. Over time they have become and remained very successful. Without the vast network of volunteer administrators, who edited and taught the course material, Domuni would have never got off the ground.
In 2010, under the direction of Sr Claire-Marie Monnet, OP, Domuni presented a case to the Vatican and the Roman Congregation for Catholic Education for it to become a Higher Institute of Religious Sciences - Domuni. This higher institute was established and attached to the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum), allowing Domuni to grant canonical degrees.
In 2011, Domuni was established as a university at the Rectorat of Toulouse. It was subsequently recognised by many other religious and academic institutions.
In 2013, an agreement was signed with the University of Lorraine in France, that the latter would recognise Domuni credits and courses in the areas of theology. Domuni University can therefore provide access to the European higher education system, awarding civil degrees in theology.
Its academic recognitions and great success with students allow Domuni University to expand. The university has, therefore, introduced both Spanish and English operations, then Italian and Arabic. Its trilingual nature, as well as the geographic diversity of its student body were made possible by the Internet. It makes Domuni University the first global university in the areas of philosophy and theology.