University of the People

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University of the People
Seal of UoPeople.jpg
University Seal
Latin: Universitas Populi
Motto Tuition-Free Online University
Established 2009
Type Private (non-profit)
Endowment US$1.3 million (2013)[1]
President Shai Reshef
Students 2,000 + (2014) [2]
Location Pasadena, California, United States United States
Campus Virtual
Colors Eggplant     
Affiliations DEAC
University of the People logo (with its coat of arms)

University of the People (UoPeople) is a non-profit,[1] accredited[3] online institution of higher education headquartered in Pasadena, California, United States.[4] It currently offers degree programs in business administration and computer science, and is the only OER (open educational resources) university in the world.[5][6]

Mission & Values[edit]

University of the People’s mission, which is central to its establishment, is to “offer affordable, quality, online, higher education to any qualified student”.[7]

University of the People (UoPeople) promotes access to higher education as a key ingredient in the promotion of world peace and global economic development. It views higher education as a basic right and believes that it can both transform the lives of individuals and be an important force for societal change, strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, while promoting understanding and tolerance.[8]


Educational entrepreneur Shai Reshef launched University of the People in January 2009.[9] Its first cohorts started studying in September 2009, when 177 students from 49 countries across the globe comprised the inaugural class of the University.

The Information Society Project at Yale Law School (Yale ISP) expanded its program in digital education by entering into a research partnership with University of the People in September 2009.[10]

The university was announced at the UN on May 19, 2009, and was presented at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in August 2010.[11]

In November 2010, at the Clinton Global Initiative, UoPeople committed to accepting 250 qualified Haitian youth to study free online, helping them access education and develop the skills needed to rebuild their country following the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake,[12] wherein 28 of Haiti's 32 major universities were completely destroyed and the four remaining universities were severely damaged, destroying much of Haiti's higher education sector. The goal of enrolling 250 students was reached in May 2014.[13]

In June 2011, University of the People established collaboration with New York University (NYU).[14] The collaboration between the universities enables outstanding UoPeople students to be accepted to NYU Abu Dhabi, with a generous scholarship. NYU President, John Sexton, chairs University of the People’s President’s Council.

June 2011 also marked the beginning of a partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP).[15] Through the partnership, HP generously committed to the sponsorship and mentoring of women students worldwide, established Virtual Research Internships, created access to HP Life E-Learning,[16] provided computers for the learning center in Haiti and gave general support to help UoPeople achieve accreditation.[15]

In 2011, through a $500,000 contribution, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined University of the People’s efforts to open the gates to higher education, with their grant which helped UoPeople attain accreditation.[17]

In April 2013 the university's President, Shai Reshef, was invited to brief members of the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) on online education, specifically how to use the internet as a vehicle for spreading US higher education throughout the world.[18]

In August 2013, Microsoft 4Afrika announced a scholarship program to give 1,000 students from Africa scholarships to study at UoPeople, as well as access to Microsoft programs and resources.

University of the People received accreditation in January 2014[19] by the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC), an accreditation agency that is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Since accreditation, the university has experienced accelerated growth.[20]

In March 2014, the university president, Reshef, presented a TED Talk on the need for tuition-free higher education to open the gates for all qualified individuals.[21]

In April 2014, the University graduated its first group of graduates who came from four different countries: Jordan, Nigeria, Syria and the United States.[22]

In May 2014, The Bayelsa State Government of Nigeria entered a partnership with University of the People in a milestone agreement, the University's first government agreement, which will support students towards achieving Bachelor Degrees in Computer Science or Business Administration.[23]

In November 2014, the University announced a partnership with UNHCR to offer education to refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.[24] By end of 2014, the University had 62 graduates and had accepted students from more than 150 countries, a third are from the US and many from Africa and the Middle East.[25]

Organization and administration[edit]

The University is led by a board of trustees and its council of presidents.

UoPeople has gained widespread support of leading academics with its President’s Council. The Council is chaired by New York University President John Sexton and includes UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Director of the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) Professor Devang Khakhar, Oxford Vice-Chancellor Sir Colin Lucas, President Emeritus of RISD Roger Mandle, President Emeritus at Barnard College Judith R. Shapiro, President Emeritus of The George Washington University Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, and Nobel Laureate Torsten N. Wiesel.

The University's structure is based on a pool of more than 3000 [26] volunteers, some of which fill various positions at every rank of the University. These volunteers are supported by a small paid staff.

University of the People uses instructor support combined with learning by teaching and peer-to-peer learning. The university uses online discussion forums and online communities in order for students to cover readings, share resources, exchange ideas and discuss assigned questions. Scholars, professors, librarians, master level students and other professionals—many of them volunteers—oversee and participate in both the assessment process and the development of curricula.[4]

UoPeople Students also have access to the UoPeople Library & Resource Center (ULRC), a virtual environment delivered through the University course site. The Center's collections are primarily proprietary academic resources but also include open educational resources.[27]

Academic programs[edit]

University of the People offers the following four undergraduate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science Degree (B.S.) in Business Administration
  • Associate of Science Degree (A.S.) in Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Science Degree (B.S.) in Computer Science
  • Associate of Science Degree (A.S.) in Computer Science

UoPeople is the only OER university in the world, i.e. every course makes use of open educational resources and students don't need to pay for any textbooks.[5][6]


Students pay a registration fee on a sliding scale of $10 to $50 determined by income and country of residence. University of the People requires a tuition to be paid in the form of a $100 administration fee for each exam a student takes.[28] To complete an Associate degree (A.S.), a student must take 20 exams and 40 exams for a Bachelor Degree, which costs a total of $2,000 and $4,000 respectively. Students who cannot afford to pay can apply for scholarships.[29]


Yale Law School Information Society Project[edit]

University of the People and Yale Law School ISP (Information Society Project) announced a digital education research partnership in 2009.[30][31] Jack Balkin, Yale ISP Director and Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, serves on the Arts and Science Advisory Board of University of the People.

New York University[edit]

In June 2011, New York University (NYU)[32] announced a collaborative agreement with University of the People to identify those UoPeople students eligible for admission to New York University's Abu Dhabi campus. Recognizing that many of UoPeople's students are economically disadvantaged youth, eligible students who qualify for admittance to NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as qualify for financial aid, may receive generous financial aid to enable them to afford attendance at NYU Abu Dhabi. John Sexton is the chairman of the University's council of Presidents, and all three UoPeople deans hail from NYU.


Through the Microsoft4Afrika scholarship program, Microsoft has pledged to sponsor 1000 African students to study at UoPeople. Scholarship recipients will further enhance their skills and experience through participation in additional support programs, including professional training from Microsoft, mentorship by Microsoft employees, internships, and job opportunities with Microsoft and their affiliates in Africa. The University plans to replicate this partnership with further corporations in the future.[33]

Hewlett Packard (HP)[edit]

University of the People and Hewlett Packard (HP)[34] announced a partnership in June 2011 to open up virtual research internships for UoPeople students as part of HP's Catalyst Initiative—a global network of consortia that brings together educational institutions and nongovernmental organizations.

Additionally, Hewlett-Packard was the first corporate sponsor of the University of the People Women Scholarship Fund, with a donation of $200,000 to sponsor 100 women towards the attainment of their Associate degrees.[35] HP also gave the University a 200,000 general donation, and donated computers to the University's learning center in Haiti.

United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development[edit]

Working under the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, GAID was approved by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006 in recognition that ICT must be effectively integrated into development activities if internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, are to be achieved within the agreed time frame. On May 19, 2009, UN-GAID announced the launch of University of the People at a press conference in New York to reporters, and it's President, Shai Reshef, was named as a High profile advisor to UN GAID.[36]

Clinton Global Initiative[edit]

Clinton Global Initiative Advances University of the People Pledge to Democratize Higher Education in Haiti. In August 2010, UoPeople was invited to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI),[37] and announced its commitment to Haiti, in which UoPeople committed to accepting 250 qualified Haitian youth to study at the University for free, helping them access education and develop the skills needed to rebuild their country. The commitment was fulfilled in May 2014.

OpenCourseWare consortium[edit]

OpenCourseWare is a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses. The OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCWC) is a collaboration of more than 200 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model. As a member of OCWC, UoPeople strengthens its commitment to advancing the current education system via the Internet.[38]

Asal Technologies[edit]

University of the People moved its IT development to Ramallah via a technology partnership with Asal Technologies, as announced on March 7, 2012.[39] One of the primary drivers behind this move is that the University states it is determined to not only provide educational opportunity, but also job opportunities to regions in need of them. Palestine is one such region. Since opening the center, part of the university's student services and financial support services have relocated to Ramallah as well.[40] University of the People also announced it is currently considering moving a large part of its back office operations to Ramallah, in order to provide additional jobs.

Saylor Foundation[edit]

The Saylor Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to make higher education free and accessible to all through the internet.[41] On April 10, 2012, they announced a partnership with UoPeople to adapt their Business Law course for use by UoPeople's students.


Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. In recognition of his revolutionary venture, UoPeople President Shai Reshef was elected an Ashoka Fellow in December 2009. The program lends Reshef professional support, including access to a global network of two thousand peers throughout the world.[42]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2013, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) Association and MasterCard Worldwide announced that University of People (UoPeople) was the winner of the 2013 ISIC Award for its "innovative approach to education access."[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b High, Peter (March 3, 2014). "A Conversation With The President Of The World's First Non-Profit, Tuition-Free, Accredited, Online University". Forbes. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  2. ^ "About UoPeople" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  3. ^ Report from the Accrediting Commission February 13, 2014. Distance Education Accreditation Commission. 2014-02-13. 
  4. ^ a b Lewin, Tamar (January 25, 2009). "Israeli Entrepreneur Plans a Free Global University That Will Be Online Only". New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "Nobel laureate Torsten Wiesel to join University of the People". March 28, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Reed, Matt (2015-02-23). "OER as Retention Initiative | Confessions of a Community College Dean". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  7. ^ "a conversation with the president of world's first non profit university". 
  8. ^ "University Mission Statement". 
  9. ^ Reshef, Shai (2010). "Educating the Many". Educause Quarterly. Retrieved June 1, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Yale ISP and University of the People Partner for Digital Education Research | Yale Law School". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  11. ^ "Clinton Global Initiative Advances University of the People Pledge to Democratize Higher Education in Haiti - Technology News". 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  12. ^ "university world news". 
  13. ^ "University of the People website". 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Online model for tertiary education can solve varsity seats shortage —Don". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Free Distance Learning – Study For Free". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  27. ^ "Library Services". University of the People website. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  28. ^ "Israeli Entrepreneur Opens Online University in West Bank". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  29. ^ Parr, Chris (2013-03-21). "University of the People on course for stability | News". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  30. ^ "Yale ISP and University of the People Partner for Digital Education Research". Yale Law School. September 22, 2009. Retrieved October 21, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Yale ISP and UoPeople Partner". University of the People's Blog. September 22, 2009. Retrieved October 21, 2009. 
  32. ^ Tamar Lewin (June 9, 2011). "Partnership to Further Global Quest by N.Y.U.". New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  33. ^ "4Afrika | Youth 4Afrika". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  34. ^ Sarah Kessler (June 29, 2011). "Traditional Higher Ed Opens Doors for Tuition-Free Online University". Mashable. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  35. ^ Ethan Bauley (July 11, 2012). "HP is first contributor to UoPeople Women Scholarship Fund". HP Data Central. Retrieved July 12, 2012. 
  36. ^ "UN announces launch of world’s first tuition-free, online university". UN News Centre. May 19, 2009. 
  37. ^ "Clinton Global Initiative Advances University of the People Pledge to Democratize Higher Education in Haiti". USA: Yahoo!news. September 20, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2010. [dead link]
  38. ^ Open Education Consortium Members
  39. ^ "University of the People Partners for Technology in Ramallah, Palestine". UoPeople. USA. March 7, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  40. ^ Reshef, Shai (March 19, 2012). "My Vision: Peace in Palestine and Beyond". USA: Huffington Post. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  41. ^ "Mission | Saylor Academy". 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  42. ^ "Shai Reshef | Ashoka - Innovators for the Public". 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  43. ^ "UoPeople named 2013 ISIC award winner". 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 

External links[edit]