University of the People
The University of the People (UoP) is a new, tuition-free university which promises to open the gates of higher education to anyone in the world interested in attending college. Opened in 2009, it promotes the idea that education at a very minimal cost is a basic right for all suitable applicants, not just for a privileged few. By July 2010, it had enrolled a reported 500 students from nearly 100 countries.
The University of the People is:
- based on the premise that education is crucial to the advancement of individuals and of society at large. There are millions of people around the world, especially in third world countries, who are excluded from higher education for various reasons: some live far away from academic institutions, others cannot afford the admission fee and tuition for the local university.
UoP received 2000 applications for 2009, and 178 students began their degrees in September 2009, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The inaugural pupils ranged in age from 16 to 61, and came from 49 countries, led by the United States, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Brazil. By July 2010 there were a reported 500 students from nearly 100 countries.
In 2010 the university began work to establishing learning centers in Zimbabwe, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Haiti, Liberia, and Palestine - designed to provide students with personal assistance and Internet-accessible workspace, with 20 computers at every location (according to the Chronicle of Higher Education).
The University of the People web site is at http://www.uopeople.com/
Founder and fees
UoP is the world’s first tuition-free, online academic institution, which opened its virtual doors in April 2009. Founder and President Shai Reshef established UoP to combat a perceived discrepancy between unprecedented access to the Internet, dropping technology costs and rising tuition costs worldwide. UoP seeks to revolutionize higher education by providing universal access to college studies-even in the poorest parts of the world.
UoP stated that it can change the tuition-free feature in springtime 2010. Tuition remains free as the university enters its second year, but students can expect some "administration" fees from September 2011.
What is the learning model for UoP and who are the students?
Comprised of students from around the world, the student body learns through peer-to-peer teaching with the curriculum and support of respected scholars. Within the online study communities, students share resources, exchange ideas, discuss weekly topics, submit assignments and take exams. A community of educators, comprised of active and retired professors, masters-level students and other professionals, participate and oversee the assessment process. They will also develop ongoing procedures for curriculum evaluation and development.
The university offers degrees in Computer Science and Business Administration – although remains unaccredited as yet.
Recently established partnerships with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and other nonprofits are enabling the fledgling university to build communication centres in developing countries – and enroll students from crisis regions like Haiti.
A partnership with Yale Law School's Information Society Project has researchers investigating legal barriers to UoPeople-style educational models.
The university is also a member of The OpenCourseWare Consortium.
Seb Schmoller comments in his blog:
- Shai Reshef, the founder, is a serial entrepreneur with a very strong track record in making this kind of thing work. For example, a Netherlands-based for-profit company Reshef chaired, and which was subsequently sold to Laureate Inc., was the delivery partner for a range of Liverpool University online masters courses.
See also the launch press release:
- UN announces launch of world’s first tuition-free, online university, 19 May 2009, at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=30848&Cr=ict&Cr1
There are now some more thorough reports:
- "Tuition-free university gains a following", Business Week, http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/content/jan2010/bs20100121_194827.htm
- "Online University Aims to Build Sites in 6 Developing Countries", The Chronicle of Higher Education, http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-university-aims-to-build-sites-in-6-developing-countries/25728
There is a Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_the_People but at present (November 2010) it is flagged as not being balanced.