The University of People

The University of the People offers an affordable, scalable alternative to the current education system.

"Look at the world," says Shai Reshef, President of the University of the People. "Pick a place and focus on it. You will find humans chasing higher education.” Shai set up the University of the People following the realisation that higher education had stopped being a right for all, and instead, had become a privilege for the few. He decided to provide an affordable, scalable alternative to the current education system.


"I wanted to open the gates of higher education for every qualified student, regardless of what they earn, where they live, or what society says about them.”
- Shai Reshef, President of the University of the People


Students of the University of the People include Patrick, born in Liberia to a family of 20 children. During the civil war, he and his family were forced to flee to Nigeria. There, despite his situation, he graduated high school with nearly perfect grades. However, he was obliged to go to South Africa to work and send back money to his family – having a higher education was a dream. Another student – Debbie from Florida, US – came from a family where nobody else had been to college. Debbie had worked all her life, but did not have the savings for higher education and could not afford to stop working to study.


It was for people like these that Shai set up the University of the People in 2009, a not-for-profit, tuition-free, accredited, online American university. This university is not built of bricks and mortar and, as everything is online, there is no need for hardcopy books either. “Why should we put that extra cost on the backs of our students?” says Shai.


Anybody with a high school diploma, a sufficient level of English and an internet connection can study with the University of the People. Tuition is free, with students having to pay only for the exams, which cost USD 100 each. This means that an entire degree costs USD 4,000. “And for those who cannot afford even this,” says Shai, “we offer a variety of scholarships. It is our mission that nobody will be left behind for financial reasons.”


At first, the university offered degrees in Business Administration and Computer Science. Since the University of the People became fully accredited, it has grown substantially, with students enrolled from nearly 200 countries. It now offers a health science degree and an MBA.


"This is a new model of higher education," says Shai. "Once expanded, it can enhance the collective intelligence of millions of creative and motivated individuals who otherwise would be left behind."


The University of the People will continue to scale up. Shai believes that a new era is coming, “an era that will witness the disruption of the higher education model as we know it today, from being a privilege for the few to becoming a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.”

Illegal immigrants still have rights. Activities organised by the Entraide Protestante Suisse include cultural, sport and leisure events. Above, the team trains and competes in “Fête de l’Escalade”, an annual fun-run that takes place in Geneva's Old Town every December.


© Permanences Volantes


Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report


Year of publication: 2016




Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.


© 2018  Oak Foundation - All Rights Reserved.