Economic Times | Rica Bhattcharyya | ET Bureau | 29 December, 2015 |
MUMBAI: California-based University of the People, the world’s first non-profit tuition-free varsity, is looking at India as a major destination for students and plans to explore the possibility of collaborating with the Indian government for providing quality higher education online. “India is going to be a great source of students for the university…we have solutions for them…so it is a win-win…I have quite a lot of meetings (lined up) with the government in New Delhi and members of the HRD ministry in India,” Shai Reshef, president and founder of UoPeople told ET in an exclusive interaction on Monday. He said, “India is high on the university’s agenda and we are very interested in spreading the word about the opportunity for Indians.” Reshef delivered a keynote address at IIT Bombay’s annual Techfest and will be in Delhi on Tuesday to meet government officials. The accredited American online university, dedicated to opening access to higher education globally, offers associate and bachelor’s degree programmes in business administration and computer science, and is currently in the process of developing new health science and MBA degrees. The university, which was set up in 2009 and got accredited last year, saw the number of students increase from 500 to 2,500 from over 170 countries within a year. It aims to double the number of students every year. The university partners New York University and Yale Law School, and is supported by private companies including Microsoft, Intel and HP. “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.
University of the People has gained widespread support of volunteers and leading academics around the world. Its President’s Council, chaired by New York University president John Sexton, includes Oxford vice-chancellor emeritus Sir Colin Lucas, UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks, IIT Bombay director Devang Khakhar, IGNOU vice chancellor emeritus Abdul Waheed Khan and Nobel laureate Torsten N Wiesel, among others. The university uses open source technology, open education and resources or content on the internet that people produce and gives everyone the right to use for free, and internet volunteers to prepare the courses and teach. Although it is a not for-profit university, it aims to be sustainable by the end of 2016. So the students study for free, but when they get to the examinations they are expected to pay $100 per exam. If a student studies fulltime, therefore, he or she will have to undertake 10 exams and pay $1,000 (about Rs 67,000). “Being financially sustainable is extremely important to us because we want to show universities and government that quality higher education is feasible with low cost and India could be the perfect example,” said Reshef. “Instead of spending billions and billions dollars on building new universities you need here to accommodate the demands you can take a big leap if every single person has an opportunity for higher education online,” he said. Half of its current students are from the US, while 20-25% are from Africa and the rest are divided across the world, with 90 students enrolled from India. “I am here to spread the word about the university and spread the word about the legitimacy of online…Prime Minister Modi is talking about online and about MOOCs (massive open online courses)…we have to support that,” said Reshef. Unlike MOOC, which also uses the internet to spread education to masses but could have thousands of students in one class, UoPeople puts students in small classes of 20 and enables them to have intensive interaction. Further, it has a course completion rate of 95% compared to about 5% for MOOCs. – Courtesy / UoPeople is the first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited online university dedicated to the global advancement and democratization of higher education. http://uopeople.edu/