Innovation That Matters

Global university extends the reach of higher education

Nonprofit & Social Cause

The edupunk movement recently moved up a notch with the entrance of the world’s first global tuition-free online university. University of the People (UoPeople) is a non-profit venture—supported by the United Nations—that embraces the worldwide reach of the internet and dropping technology costs to bring higher education to people who would not otherwise have access to it. UoPeople founder Shai Reshef explains: “The idea is to reach the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who graduate high school, have all the ability and the right to study in an academic institution, but cannot do it either because they don’t have the money or because there aren’t enough institutions.” Launched in September 2009 and now in its third term, UoPeople has received 3,000 applications and admitted 380 students from more than 70 countries, including Afghanistan, Thailand, Sudan and Zambia. At this stage, UoPeople students can pursue unaccredited studies in either business or computer science. The California-registered institution is in the process of applying for accreditation in the United States. Employing a small group of paid staff, UoPeople’s educational model has an emphasis on peer-to-peer learning with guidance from more than 800 volunteer scholars who participate as instructors. Relying on free learning materials from open courseware projects, the model includes classes, discussions, readings, assignments and exams. Higher education may trade in ideas, but it runs on dollars. To help cover the school’s operating expenses, students will soon be charged admission fees and test-processing fees, each costing USD 10 to 100 depending on the student’s home country. UoPeople is seeking operational funding through grants, foundations and private donations. One to get involved in? (Related: Free Ivy League courses for high schoolers.) Spotted by: Gergana Stoeva



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