Monday, September 21, 2009

University of the People

Power to the people.power to the people right on...... people of a certain age will know that tune. We’ve had the Open University and the School of Everything, (let’s ignore the UKeU and NHSU for a moment) but now we’ve got an idea that could be truly revolutionary, and global. The University of the People.

How much does it cost?

Nothing. That’s right – it’s free. It’s the world’s first TUITION FREE university with its first crop of students coming from 49 countries aged from 16-61.

Where is it based?

Nowhere and everywhere. It’s the internet baby, so it truly is the first global university.

When can one join?

Enrolment is on a rolling basis, with five terms and therefore five start days, avoiding the stupid traditional model of a ‘once per year’ start. They can do this by having a solid orientation programme on ‘Computer Skills for Online Learning’ as well as 'English Composition' (as all courses are currently in English). The first cohorts will be around 300 students.

Drift to the free

This is exactly what the web leads to in terms Chris Anderson and Kevin Kelly’s drift towards the free model. We saw it with knowledge. First it was holed up in elitist, expensive books, libraries and institutions, then published as ‘encyclopedias’ (Encyclopedia Britannica), then half-baked business models like Microsoft Encarta and eventually the free Wikipedia. The democratisation of education will follow the same road.

Will it work?

It still has all the hallmarks of a US driven initiative, with US holidays in the calendar and the usual stuff that US people think is global but is actually local. However, it has all the hallmarks of a successful initiative; vision, global reach, free and online. Someone’s going to crack this and it sure as hell ain’t going to be the Donald Trump University. Good luck to them – they deserve it.


Anonymous said...

Dear Donald - just wanted to say thank you for your support - greatly appreciated! Term two application deadlines are looming so anyone wishing to start studying in a truely global online classroom should visit!

Rob, University of the People.

Lars Hyland said...

Exactly the sort of initiative that should be providing a model for change at traditional universities.

Thanks for your comments on the
university funding debate - probably so comprehensive that it leaves little for others to add...hopefully others will be brave enough to contribute and contradict!

Rob - would value your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I would like to Echo Lars' sentiment. Infact, today we are announcing a research partnership with Yale University Law School ISP. To mark the event Shai Reshef, founder of UoPeople, is giving a lecture at Yale today and his parting message will be that the UoPeople model represents a methodology that would enable traditional universities to "break-out" of their current confines and take their quality education to a mass, global audience. The same is true for governments. Using a UoPeople model goverments would be able to extend education to the many for a fraction of the cost of even educating just a few.

In terms of the "this way" or "that way" debate, the University of the People is all about extending the reach of

We advocate for education in its entirety, we do not advocate for one form of education over another. We create an alternative that will not replace the traditional University but rather, offer another option for the students.

What we offer is the chance to use the remarkable opportunity that open technology, open resources and open minds, in terms of the untapped potential we all have to help each other learn, to bring higher education within reach of millions of people who previously could only dream about it.

Let's move the debate away from bricks and mortar versus keyboards and screens and all work together to bring the highest possible quality education to the highest possible number of people.

Rob, University of the People

Donald Clark said...

Hi Rob
Just one observation - the site has a certain US bias that is at odds with the global aims. Otherwise - well done.

Unknown said...

Thanks Donald - I can understand why you might say that but just to reassure you about our global aims, our first cohort of students is comprised from 49 different countries, with all regions of the world represented. On the evidence of the first couple of weeks interation in the forums, students are revelling in the multi-national and multi-cultural environment. We hope that before too long we will have all countries represented at UoPeople!

Rob, University of the People

Donald Clark said...

Good news - keep me posted as I give lots of conference talks across Europe and will be mentioning this initiative.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff - thanks Donald! Can I contact you directly so that I know what information would be helpful for you? My email is


Unknown said...

Slightly off topic, but I thought it might interest you:

Google's 10^100 project has just reemerged and one of the ideas is:

Enhance science and engineering education

Suggestions that inspired this idea


5. Create an academically oriented multiplayer game focused on math and science

Kim Thomas said...

Interesting post, Donald, but have you revised your views on OpenLearn? My memory is that you weren't that impressed originally.