Academic Overview

The Aquinas Institute offers two online programs: a Liberal Arts Core for undergraduates and a Theology Curriculum for graduate students. Each program consists of 12 courses.

The Liberal Arts Core initiates college-ready students into the great intellectual tradition of the Western world. Drawing from some of the greatest writings in Humanities, Philosophy, and Theology, this program provides an integrated experience of the Liberal Arts. The Liberal Arts Core also serves as a Pre-Theology program, preparing students for the Theology Curriculum classes.

The Theology Curriculum immerses graduate-level students in Scripture, dogma, and morals through the writings of the Popes, Fathers, and Doctors of the Church, with a special emphasis on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

All of our programs are rooted in the reality that defined the Western world, namely the Catholic Church: her inspired Scripture, her sacred tradition, and her doctrinal teachings. An international faculty of faithful Catholics guides students through live discussions of the greatest books ever written so that students can communicate Catholic principles and integrate them into their lives. The Aquinas Institute designed its programs around two simple ideas: Great Books and Real-Time Conversations.

Great Books

Anyone who has experienced the joy of learning can remember those few remarkable teachers who made all the difference. It was not just the information they conveyed to students. Even if someone watched these gifted teachers and told everyone what they said, that would not be the same as being in their classroom.

This is why it is important to read the Great Books. Certain remarkable people wrote in a way that touched the whole Western world, and students need to learn directly from these great authors. One could read a textbook that summarizes what Plato or Shakespeare, Augustine or Aquinas said, but that would not be the same as reading the actual texts of the greatest teachers of all time. Sometimes the great authors teach by how they phrase an idea, or by the way they organize their thought. Other times, they expose the true strength or weakness of their argument by letting us walk with them through the birth of their idea. But at all times, what a student misses when reading a textbook about Augustine rather than reading Augustine is Augustine himself. A textbook can teach about the great authors, but it can’t give us the authors themselves. If our first and last introduction to the great conversation of the centuries were a textbook, it would be like hiring someone to attend our family reunion and summarize everything said. It isn’t the same; it isn’t even similar.

Plus, reading the greatest books of all time gives students a confidence they could never gain elsewhere. Once you have wrestled with the mind of Aristotle or the theology of Aquinas, you will never be intimidated by anyone else. And the great secret behind classical education is that you can read these difficult books. Everyone can. You can’t do it alone—but that is why we read together.

Real-Time Conversations

The intellectual tradition of the Western world could be described as a great conversation unfolding over the centuries. Within the Church, this conversation becomes, in addition, a conversation among saints. The Aquinas Institute believes that the best way to join this great conversation is precisely through conversation: real-time back-and-forth with teachers and fellow students. Many minds working on a great text together place that text back in its element as part of an exchange between real people.

In addition, live discussion contributes to a traditional liberal arts formation and, as it is acquired, allows it to be exercised with pleasure. The effort to put thought into words exposes fallacies, sparks new insights, and hones rhetorical skill. Hasty generalizations that seemed convincing in the abstract suddenly founder when forced into the framework of verbal expression. Constant practice persuading and being persuaded soon teaches students to frame their ideas convincingly.

Meanwhile, the need to respond helpfully and convincingly to others fosters the habit of attentive listening. Reading opinions in print, written by distant people of this or that political party, is not at all like a vigorous discussion between friends. One learns really to hear what was said rather than simply noticing who said it.

Real-time discussion about the most important things prepares students to articulate and model Catholic principles in any setting, career, or state in life. It instills in them that most civilized and yet rarest of arts, the art of substantive conversation.

Accreditation

The Aquinas Institute is not accredited by an agency that is recognized by the Department of Education of the United States of America. While the Aquinas Institute works toward accreditation, students who intend to use Aquinas Institute classes at other institutions may be able to do so through ad hoc agreements between the Aquinas Institute and the other institutions. There is no guarantee Aquinas Institute credits will transfer, although students of the Aquinas Institute have had success with such transfers in the past.

The Aquinas Institute offers its Liberal Arts Core program for those who would like an integrated Liberal Arts experience at the undergraduate level. The program is intended for those who want to discuss some of the greatest writings of all time, led by a professor in a classroom setting. Students who complete all 12 courses will be issued a Certificate in Liberal Arts from the Aquinas Institute. Students wishing to use credit from Aquinas Institute classes at other colleges and universities should contact the Academic Dean to set up an articulation agreement with the desired institution.

The Aquinas Institute’s Masters level Theology Curriculum features courses comparable in credit hours and content to those offered at other graduate institutions. Students who complete the 21 courses will be issued a degree by the Aquinas Institute, together with a transcript suitable to demonstrate the rigor of the program and the credentials of the instructors. Students who wish to use their Aquinas Institute credits to complete a degree at another institution should contact the Academic Dean to facilitate a transfer of credits. The possibility of such a transfer depends exclusively on the decision of the target institution.