California-based University of the People, the first non-profit tuition-free university in the world, is considering a partnership with India for a student destination as well as possible plans with the Indian government to offer high-quality higher education online.
Shai Reshef, president and founder of UoPeople, called the situation a “win-win” because India can offer a large pool of potential students and the university can offer solutions for them.
Associate and bachelor’s degree programs are available through the accredited American online university, which hopes to increase access to higher education for students across the globe. Degree programs are offered in areas such as business administration and computer science, with plans currently in the works for new health science and MBA degrees.
Launched in 2009, the university gained accreditation last year, after which the number of students increased from 500 to 2,500 from over 170 countries. The university runs in partnership with New York University and Yale Law School, with support from private companies including Microsoft, Intel and HP, writes Rica Bhattcharyya for The Times of India.
“We are going to double the size of the university every year….there are 100 million people in the world that do not have seats in the existing universities….25 million of them are in India…I am here to talk to the government about the opportunities and convince them about our model,” said Reshef. “India is important for us because of the masses and because of the economic development here,” he said.
Open source technology, open education, along with resources and content available on the internet created for free use are used by the University. In addition, internet volunteers prepare and teach the courses.
While the University of the People is a not-for-profit, it hopes to be sustainable by the end of 2016. Students will still study for free, but would need to pay $100 per exam at the end of each course. Full-time students would participate in 10 exams for a total cost of $1,000 USD, around Rs 67,000.
Reshef discussed the importance of the institution being financially stable, saying that it is necessary in order for other schools and governments to see that higher education can come at a low cost. He added that India would be a perfect example of this, saying that billions could be saved on the building of new universities while still meeting the high demand.
Currently, half of the students studying at the school come from the United States, with around 20-25% located in Africa and the rest divided around the world. A total of 90 students are in India.
UoPeople is different from MOOCs, which also make use of internet materials in courses which have thousands enrolled in one time, in that the school limits their class size to 20 and offers the ability to have intense interactions. The University has a completion rate of 95% in comparison to a rate of about 5% for MOOCs.