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Can University Be Free?

Shai Reshef, President, University of the People
Ideas Fair


Shai Reshef
Today, millions around the world are constrained access to higher education due to financial, geographic, societal or personal constraints. UNESCO youth growth projections suggest that by the year 2025, a further 98 million individuals will be in need of higher educational access than what existing institutions can accommodate.

There is a solution to open access for all those constrained with the provision of quality tuitionfree, online higher education.

University of the People (UoPeople; is the world’s first tuition-free, nonprofit, online academic institution dedicated to opening access to higher education globally. UoPeople offers Associate and Bachelor degree programs in Business Administration and Computer Science. Founded in 2009, UoPeople has partnered with Yale University for research, New York University to accept students and Hewlett-Packard, as part of their Catalyst Initiative, for internships. To date, more than 1500 students from over 130 countries have been accepted. Leading academics support UoPeople including Oxford Vice Chancellor Sir Colin Lucas, New York University President John Sexton, and George Washington President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, among others. Additionally, UoPeople has received the support of over 1,000,000 people on Facebook and garnered media coverage throughout the world.

University of the People is not only servicing those individuals otherwise constrained from attaining higher education, but even more important, it is building a model for governments and universities worldwide to emulate in order to educate even greater numbers of individuals in need. Almost everything needed to open the gates to higher education for everyone is already available and for free:

  • Open-source technology—technology available to all, for free.
  • Open-educational resources—content people put on the net, for others to use, for free.
  • The internet culture of social networking where people share openly, teach and learn from each other, for free. This culture is conducive to utilizing peer to peer learning in which people teach each other in the classroom, under the guidance of instructors.

All of these amalgamated together cumulate in tuition-free quality education for all that University of the People utilizes. This is a model, which is not designed to be a secret.

If we educate one, we can change a life. But if we educate many, we can change the world.

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