Business Standard | India -World's first tuition fee-free varsity to start operation soon

By Press Trust of India
Sunday August 16, 2009
In a bid to provide higher education free of cost to needy students, the world's first tuition fee-free online university with its academic-support operations based in India, will start operation from next month.

Founded by an Israeli entrepreneur, the University of People will use the concept of social networking websites.

The students will help one another with their studies and teachers will only act as supervisors, intervening in case the students need their guidance, university founder and president Shai Reshef told PTI.

The study material has been compiled voluntarily by professors and experts in different fields.

"It is an attempt to provide quality education to deprived students who are constrained by finances, lack of institutions in their region or unable to leave home to pursue education," Reshef said.

The California-headquartered non-profit institution has Dr Y S Rajan, CII Principal Advisor and Dr Abdul Waheed Khan, former IGNOU vice-chancellor as members of its advisory committee among Indians.

"Former Indian president A P J Abdul Kalam has also agreed to be a guest lecturer and provide the varsity with access to his course materials and other written works," Reshef, who also serves as a high-level advisor to the United Nations Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development, said.

"After seeing the success of social networking sites, I thought of creating an online university where students would seek each others help in an online forum. By encouraging peer-to-peer teaching, we have managed to keep our costs under control," Reshef said.

Although there is no tuition fee, the university charges a nominal amount for enrollment and examinations. "The registration and examinations fees varies between $10 and $100. Students from poorer countries will pay the lower fees and those from richer countries will pay the higher ones," the university founder said.

"We have tried our best to make everything, including the curricula and the study materials, similar to the ones offered by other universities," he said.

A class size is limited to 20 students, who can log on for a weekly lecture, conduct discussions with peers and take tests. Although the first batch will have a strength of 300 students, the university has plans of getting more than 15,000 students in the next three years.

At present the university is only offering graduation-level courses in business management and computer sciences. "We will include many other courses later on. Business management and computer science are the most widely opted for courses worldwide," Reshef said.

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