Currently, there are two higher education systems in Tennessee, with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission performing a coordinative role. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was created by the General Assembly in 1967. The University of Tennessee system is comprised of campuses at Knoxville, Martin, and Chattanooga; the Center for the Health Sciences in Memphis; the Space Institute in Tullahoma; and the Institutes of Agriculture and Public Service.
The Tennessee Board of Regents was created in 1972 by the General Assembly as the governing body of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee, replacing the State Board of Education. In 1983 the General Assembly transferred the technical institutes and area vocational schools (now called Tennessee Technology Centers) to the Tennessee Board of Regents. The Tennessee Normal Schools authorized by the General Education Bill of 1909—now East Tennessee State University (1911); Middle Tennessee State University (1911); the University of Memphis (1912); Tennessee State University (1912); Austin Peay State University, established as a two-year junior college and teacher-training institution by the General Assembly in 1927; and Tennessee Technological University, created as Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in 1915 from the residue of Dixie College—are the senior universities governed by the board of regents.
As early as 1929, President Morgan sought to bring the institutions of higher education in Tennessee together in a consolidation under the University of Tennessee. He felt that this should have been done through the Education Bill of 1909. By 1933 planning for consolidation had reached the serious discussion point, but the teachers at the normal schools vigorously opposed the consolidation, and it failed. In 1933 Senator W. Preston Morgan, Union County, introduced a bill to abolish the four state normal schools, Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, and the UT Junior College at Martin. The bill was not successful. In 1936 the State Board of Education and UT Trustees met and appointed a joint committee to confer with Governor-elect Browning on financing higher education in Tennessee in the first cooperative effort to prepare for the legislative session. In 1939 the Tennessee Senate passed a bill transferring Memphis State and Middle Tennessee State to UT. The bill was not passed, although it passed first readings in both houses. The possibility of subsuming all higher education in Tennessee under UT was also advanced by UT officials at this time. Various plans for consolidation of higher education functions have been advanced throughout the years.