The University of the People (UoPeople) is the Education Revolution. It is the first non-profit, tuition-free, American, accredited, online university. Dedicated to opening access to higher education globally, UoPeople helps high school graduates overcome financial, geographic, political, and personal constraints keeping them from college studies. UNESCO estimates that by the year 2025, there will be nearly 100 million young people unable to find seats in traditional universities. UoPeople believes that access to higher education is a basic right which promotes world peace and global economic development; and it is committed to providing those young people a quality higher education – tuition free. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Education (and former British Prime Minister) Gordon Brown has put it: “University of the People is offering a quality education to tens of thousands of qualified students who, without it, would have no chance at all. What’s more, with its growing network of partnerships, it can turn those tens of thousands into hundreds of thousands and someday even millions.”
UoPeople was founded in 2009 and accredited in February 2014. The University offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs in Business Administration, Computer Science, and Health Science as well as master’s degree programs in Business Administration and Education. University of the People in Arabic was launched in 2020, offering associate and bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, while simultaneously providing these Arabic-speaking students intensive English-language courses. There presently are more than 117,000 students enrolled from more than 200 countries and territories. Over 10,000 of these students are refugees.*
UoPeople is staffed by thousands of volunteers, including its Founder and President, Shai Reshef, the distinguished members of its international boards of trustees and advisors, and its faculty. The President’s Council is chaired by John Sexton, NYU’s President Emeritus, and consists of two dozen other leaders from the world’s foremost institutions (see here for the full list). More than 26,000 professionals have volunteered for leadership roles, serving as provost, as deans, as administrators, or as faculty.
UoPeople has built a sustainable and scalable model to serve those millions whose talent and creativity is being lost today. Courses are delivered online to a group of typically 20-30 students who study the material together under the direction of a faculty member. A bachelor’s degree requires completion of 40 courses. Each nine-week course is based on a curriculum drawn from Open Educational Resources (OER) materials, so there is no textbook or materials cost. The only time a student is asked to pay any amount is at the end of a course. For students who can afford it there is an assessment fee of $120 for an undergraduate course or $240 for a graduate-level course. This fee, which is waived if a student warrants that he or she cannot afford it, helps defray the university’s operational costs, allowing UoPeople to remain sustainable and still ultra-low cost.
UoPeople has collaborations with the University of Edinburgh, Effat University, Long Island University, McGill University and NYU. Each of these schools has used UoPeople to identify talented students to whom they have provided admission and generous financial aid. UoPeople not only provides its students with a quality degree but also provides them a way to demonstrate their talent and readiness for spots in the student bodies of the world’s leading universities. In addition, UoPeople has partnered with Harvard Business School Online to allow UoPeople students to participate in Harvard’s online courses. Upon graduation, 92% of those who receive degrees of any kind at UoPeople are employed, including at companies such as Amazon, Apple, Dell, Deloitte, IBM, Microsoft, and JP Morgan, and organizations such as the UN and the World Bank.
UoPeople is supported by the generosity of individuals and foundations, including the Gates, Hewlett, and Ford Foundations, Fondation Hoffmann, and others. The University has been covered by the New York Times, BBC, NPR, Times Higher Education, US News and World Report, and more. President Reshef’s TED Talk and Nas Daily interview about the University have 30 million views combined.
*Estimate based on students’ self-reported legal status in country of residence.