University of the People

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University of the People
Seal of UoPeople.jpg
University Seal
Latin: Universitas Populi
Motto Tuition-Free University
Type Private (non-profit) co-educational, nonsectarian
Established 2009
Endowment US$1.3 million (2013)[1]
President Shai Reshef
Students More than 6,000 (2017)[2]
Location Pasadena, California, United States
Campus Online
Colors Eggplant     
Affiliations DEAC
Yale ISP
New York University
UC Berkeley
MIT Solve
University of the People logo (with its coat of arms)

University of the People (UoPeople) is an American[3] 501(c)(3) non-profit[1] institution of higher education headquartered in Pasadena, California, United States.[4][5] Founded by Shai Reshef in 2009, The University offers Undergraduate & Graduate School degrees and is accredited and recognized by the United States Department of Education (U.S.DoED), Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).[6] It is also approved by California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE).[7]


Educational entrepreneur Shai Reshef launched University of the People in January 2009.[8] 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.[9]

The university was announced at the UN on May 19, 2009, and was presented at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in August 2010.[10]

In November 2010, at the Clinton Global Initiative, UoPeople committed to accepting 250 qualified Haitian youth to study free online.[11]

Haiti Project Commences - November 2010

In June 2011, University of the People established collaboration with New York University (NYU) to identify UoPeople students who are eligible for admission to one of the most selective institutions in the world - NYU Abu Dhabi.[12]

In June 2011 University of the People established a partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP). Through the partnership, HP committed to the sponsorship and mentorship of women students worldwide, established Virtual Research Internships, created access to HP Life E-Learning, provided computers for the learning center in Haiti and gave general support to help UoPeople achieve accreditation.[13]

In 2011, through a $500,000 contribution, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined University of the People’s efforts and helped UoPeople attain accreditation.[14]

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

University of the People received accreditation in February 2014, through the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.[6][15]

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

In November 2014, the University announced a partnership with UNHCR to offer higher education to refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.[16]

In March 2016, the University launched an MBA program.[17]

In April 2016, UC Berkeley partners with the University.[18]

By 2016 the University had accepted 5000 students [19] from almost 200 countries.[20]

Organization and administration[edit]

President's Council meeting

The university is led by a board of trustees[21] and its President's Council.[22]

UoPeople has gained widespread support of leading academics for its President’s Council. The Council is chaired by New York University President Emeritus John Sexton.[23][24] It also includes:

UoPeople's Board of Trustees[25] is chaired by Goldfarb Seligman & Co lawyer Adv. Ashok J.Chandrasekhar. Trustee members include:

  • Utah Supreme Court Hon. Justice Christine M. Durham
  • Professor of Law at Hofstra University School of Law Daniel J. H. Greenwood
  • Former Chairman of Fulbright Scholarship Board Tom Healy
  • Professor of Finance and former Dean of INSEAD Dr. Gabriel Hawawini
  • Chairman of Sinocare Group Mr. John Porter
  • UoPeople President and founder Shai Reshef

The university's structure is based on a pool of more than 3,000 volunteers, some of whom 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.[26]

Academic programs[edit]

University of the People offers the following seven 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
  • Bachelor of Science Degree (B.S.) in Health Studies
  • Associate of Science Degree (A.S.) in Health Studies


  • Master of Business Administration Degree (M.B.A)

There are three requirements to be admitted into the university: a high-school diploma, English proficiency, and being 18 years or older.[27] After completing some basic liberal-arts curriculum, students can dive into their specialty. Each course, which has been designed by an advisory board of academics and practitioners, consists of individual homework assignments and active online discussion, both of which are peer-reviewed. Class size is usually between 20-30 students from all over the world.[28]

As the only OER university in the world, all of UoPeople's courses make use of open educational resources, i.e. students don't need to pay for any textbooks.[29]


The University of the People is tuition-free, this means that the student does not need to pay for attending classes and to study at the university. Nevertheless, there are some costs that a student has to pay:

  • Registration fee of $60 so to register a student at the University of the People[30]
  • Exam administration fee of $100-$200 for each exam a student takes[31]

To complete an associate degree (A.S.), a student must take 20 exams and 40 exams for a bachelor's degree, which cost a total of $2,000 and $4,000 respectively. For the MBA, a student has to pay a $200 exam fee per course for a total of 12 courses, which brings the total cost for the MBA to $2460.

Students who cannot afford to pay may be eligible for scholarships.[32]


UC Berkeley[edit]

University of the People established a new partnership in March 2016, with University of California, Berkeley[18] (UC Berkeley). Berkeley will now accept high-performing, qualified UoPeople Associate’s degree graduates, who wish to transfer and complete a Bachelor's degree at Berkeley.

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.[33][34] 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)[35] 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 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.[36]

Hewlett Packard (HP)[edit]

University of the People and Hewlett Packard (HP)[37] 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.[38] 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 its President, Shai Reshef, was named as a high-profile advisor to UN GAID.[39]

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),[40] 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.[41]

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.[42] 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.[43] 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.


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.[44]

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."[45][46] In 2015, University of the People's President Shai Reshef was named Salt Magazine's "#8 Most Compassionate Businessman in the World."[47] In 2016, Prince's Prize for Innovative Philanthropy has been awarded to president Shai Reshef of University of the People.[48]

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 University". Forbes. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  2. ^ "University of the People, Who We Are". University of the People. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  3. ^ "Earn an Online American University Degree, Tuition-Free | 2015-2016 Scholarships". Retrieved 2015-10-14. 
  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. ^ "Form 990 Supplemental Information" (PDF). 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "University of the People". Distance Education Accrediting Commission. Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ "University of the People". California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. Aug 31, 2015. Retrieved Sep 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ Reshef, Shai (2010). "Educating the Many". Educause Quarterly. Retrieved June 1, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Yale ISP and University of the People Partner for Digital Education Research | Yale Law School". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  10. ^ "Clinton Global Initiative Advances University of the People Pledge to Democratize Higher Education in Haiti - Technology News". 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  11. ^ "Strengthening Haiti through Higher Education". GlobalGiving. Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  12. ^ [1] Archived November 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "Hewlett Packard and University of the People". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  14. ^ "Gates Foundation Announces $9 Million in Grants to Support Breakthrough Learning Models in Postsecondary Education | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation". Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  15. ^ Lewin, Tamar (2014-02-13). "Free Online University Receives Accreditation, in Time for Graduating Class of 7". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  16. ^ "University of the People Offers Tuition-Free Higher Education to Refugees | Hewlett Foundation". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  17. ^ "University of the People Launches MBA | AACSB BizEd Magazine". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  18. ^ a b "Berkeley to accept University of the People graduates". 2016-04-05. Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  19. ^ "Online 'university of anywhere' opens to refugees". BBC. Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  20. ^ "Online learning with the University of the People-Part 2". Linkedin. Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  21. ^ "Board of Trustees". UoPeople. 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  22. ^ "President's Council". UoPeople. 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  23. ^ "NYU: Office of the President Emeritus". New York University. Retrieved 2017-01-14. 
  24. ^ "NYU: Timeline of Chancellors and Presidents". NYU Archives. 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  25. ^ "Board of Trustees - Our Leadership". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  26. ^ "Library Services". University of the People website. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  27. ^ "General Admission Requirements". UoPeople. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  28. ^ Snyder, Anne. "Higher Ed, Lower Costs". Philanthropy. Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 14 December 2015. 
  29. ^ Reed, Matt (2015-02-23). "OER as Retention Initiative | Confessions of a Community College Dean". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  30. ^ "FAQ University of the People". Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  31. ^ "Israeli Entrepreneur Opens Online University in West Bank". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  32. ^ Parr, Chris (2013-03-21). "University of the People on course for stability | News". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  33. ^ "Yale ISP and University of the People Partner for Digital Education Research". Yale Law School. September 22, 2009. Archived from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2009. 
  34. ^ "Yale ISP and UoPeople Partner". University of the People's Blog. September 22, 2009. Retrieved October 21, 2009. 
  35. ^ Tamar Lewin (June 9, 2011). "Partnership to Further Global Quest by N.Y.U.". New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  36. ^ "4Afrika | Youth 4Afrika". Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  37. ^ Sarah Kessler (June 29, 2011). "Traditional Higher Ed Opens Doors for Tuition-Free Online University". Mashable. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  38. ^ Ethan Bauley (July 11, 2012). "HP is first contributor to UoPeople Women Scholarship Fund". HP Data Central. Retrieved July 12, 2012. 
  39. ^ "UN announces launch of world's first tuition-free, online university". UN News Centre. May 19, 2009. 
  40. ^ "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]
  41. ^ Open Education Consortium Members
  42. ^ "University of the People Partners for Technology in Ramallah, Palestine". UoPeople. USA. March 7, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  43. ^ Reshef, Shai (March 19, 2012). "My Vision: Peace in Palestine and Beyond". USA: Huffington Post. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  44. ^ "Shai Reshef | Ashoka - Innovators for the Public". 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  45. ^ "UoPeople named 2013 ISIC award winner". 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2015-03-15. 
  46. ^ [2] Archived November 12, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  47. ^ "Salt | #8 Shai Reshef". Salt. Retrieved 2015-10-14. 
  48. ^ "News - HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco awards the 2015 Prince's Prize for Innovative Philanthropy to Amitabh Shah of YUVA Unstoppable". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 

External links[edit]