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How UoPeople is Helping Refugees. Inspiring Stories


Everyone deserves the right to education. Enjoy these inspiring stories about how UoPeople is helping refugees.

The belief that education should be free and accessible to all is revolutionary. It hadn’t been achieved until University of the People was established in 2009, with the mission, goal and execution to provide top-quality, accredited, tuition-free, online education for anyone in the world who wants it.

In its first year, UoPeople had 180 students from around the world. Every subsequent year, enrollment has grown substantially, with over 18,500 students passing through its virtual doors.

Shortly thereafter in 2010, Haiti suffered an earthquake and UoPeople responded with the help of the Clinton Global Initiative, which granted fully free education to 250 Haitian students.

The refugee assistance didn’t stop there. In 2015, UoPeople launched its Syrian Refugee Initiative, granting 500 Syrian refugees the right to study, which is the most of any university. The Ford Foundation hopped on board, and even the Pope took notice.

The online model grants refugees worldwide, regardless of location or the political situation in their country, the ability to access education from anywhere, which, in most cases, would have otherwise been inhibited.

Ghana, Africa

Theophile Guy Akabla is a 27 year old from Ghana. In 2011, he ran away from the war in the Ivory Coast to Ghana. Because of the war, which gradually took over the whole country, he lost his family. As a result of the crisis, his education had been shortened, even though he was a top student. Had he not have come across UoPeople, he’s not sure he would have otherwise been able to complete a degree in Computer Science.

He shares, “I am thankful, today, for the opportunity that UoPeople gives me to pursue my educational goal.” The degree will help him be able to begin his career from anywhere in the world. He also shares how he favors the “virtual learning environment that is accessible at any time, from anywhere.”

Morocco, Africa

Finding refuge in Greece from Morocco, Imad Eljafry says that UoPeople “has truly changed my life.” Imad had lived through one of the hardest refugee camps called Moria Camp in Lesvos Island. Due to the discrimination he faced back home, he was prevented from earning his university degree.

Now, in Greece, he can access a university education at zero cost, thanks to the tuition-free model, as well as a scholarship that was provided to cover the relatively small fees. He shares, “Studying online at UoPeople is an amazing experience. You get to meet classmates from anywhere in the world and really broaden your horizons.”

Kabul, Afghanistan

In 2016, Mohammad Omari graduated from an international high school in Kabul with the hopes to become a software engineer. He submitted an application for a scholarship from a school in Eastern Europe, only to be denied by his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“In a country like mine, obtaining a scholarship is a big issue if you don’t have a connection to a powerful authority,” he says.

Instead, he opted for plan B, which was to enroll in a large university in his region. After the completion of his first general term, his father became a refugee in North America because of the political situation in Afghanistan. His three brothers and mother immigrated to India. It seemed like hope was lost until his father recommended UoPeople.

Mohammad explains, “Currently, I am in the 3rd term of computer science in UoPeople. I find the teaching system of UoPeople very excellent. Sometimes, I meet my previous classmates and friends who still study in that private university, and I realize my education is stronger as I help them solve problems they can’t.”

Eritrea, Africa

Tesfit Weldeabzgi fled Eritrea and sought refuge in Israel. However, he was unable to bring with him his high school documentation when he left. While most schools require this for enrollment, UoPeople worked with him and allowed him to study Computer Science.

As a refugee, it’s hard for Tesfit to find work, but UoPeople’s flexible, online schedule means that when he does work, he can still study. He shares, “I like UoP because it gives me the opportunity to continue my education without needing a lot of money or important documents.”

Education for All

UoPeople believes in removing the traditional barriers that often hold students back from earning their degrees. Supporting this mission, UoPeople offers scholarships specifically designed to enable refugees and asylum-seekers to study.

Furthermore, the relatively low requirements for entry include an application, high school diploma (when possible) and proof of English proficiency. With nothing more than an internet connection, students — regardless of race, sex, gender, religion, political affiliation, etc. — can enroll in one of four degree program offerings, namely Computer Science, Business Administration, Health Science, and Education.

Education is a human right. UoPeople is ensuring that is the reality.