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Rethinking higher education: a solution for the missing middle

University of the People will change the way you think about higher education

06 August 2021 - 08:00
In the past year, enrolment at UoPeople has increased 107% from 36,326 to 75,390 students.
In the past year, enrolment at UoPeople has increased 107% from 36,326 to 75,390 students.
Image: Supplied/UoPeople

University of the People (UoPeople) is leading the education revolution. It’s a non-profit, tuition-free, US-accredited, online university. Dedicated to opening access to higher education globally, the university’s graduates are securing employment from top companies worldwide. 

Affordable, accredited online university

The online university is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In the past year, enrolment at UoPeople has increased 107% from 36,326 to 75,390 students, joining from more than 200 countries and territories. 

UoPeople was created to help people overcome barriers preventing them from earning a degree — the most common being lack of funds. At UoPeople, there are no costs for instruction, books or materials. Modest assessment fees are due at the end of each course, bringing the total cost for an undergraduate degree to about R69,000.

UoPeople offers bachelor’s degrees in health sciences, business administration and computer science. Master’s degrees in education and business administration are also available. These programmes were chosen for their real-world relevance and value on the job market. Career preparation is imperative when you consider unemployment rates. In June 2021, Reuter’s reported that SA’s unemployment rates have reached a record high, with 32.6% unemployed in the first quarter of 2021. This is the highest rate since the survey began in 2008. 

About 85% of UoPeople alumni have found employment after graduation and many have gone on to lead successful careers at prominent companies such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

Opening access to higher education

The higher education system in SA is experiencing definite challenges in accommodating many middle-, and lower-income students. Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International SA, has called for a change to the educational system. “For SA to comply with both its own constitutional and international human rights obligations with respect to education, major change is needed urgently,” says Mohamed.

The university is helping to transform higher education by making education affordable and accessible. Student enrolment is thus limitless — no-one will be turned away because of space constraints. Students living in remote areas of SA can also study online. Those who work full time can complete their lessons during their commute or in the evenings, as courses don’t have to be viewed live.

With students studying from all around the world, diversity and inclusion are important aspects of studying at UoPeople. In a recent 2021 student experience survey, 91% of UoPeople students reported feeling comfortable voicing their personal opinions even when it differs from others, and 95% felt they were treated with respect. 

Stop choosing between quality and affordability

There’s been a misconception that online education is not as challenging or valuable in the workforce as a traditional university degree. UoPeople is challenging that opinion with an impressive roster of academic leaders from top universities such as Princeton, the University of Cape Town, Harvard and Oxford. 

John Sexton, New York University president emeritus and UoPeople’s President’s Council chair, has spoken extensively about the level of excellence students can expect to receive. “For 60 years in education, I have been dedicated to one word, excellence. Excellence for my students; and a UoPeople education is an excellent education.”

UoPeople is creating opportunities students might have never thought possible by partnering with Harvard Business School Online, McGill University, Effat University, New York University, UC Berkley, The University of Edinburgh, and Long Island University, allowing students who meet certain criteria the chance to study with or transfer to these universities. 

There is a need for change within the SA higher education system, and UoPeople is ready to be part of the solution. Education is the powerful force SA needs to promote critical thinking, social justice and global economic development. The future of higher education is full of promise and possibility, and so is the future of UoPeople in SA.

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This article was paid for by University of the People.