University of the People Student Computer Center in Haiti

Sanchez, C. (2012) Online university for all balances big goals, expensive realities, National Public Radio, August 27 (also available as audio)

Report on the current state of the free University of the People:

Admission requirements:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Finished high school
  • can read and write English


  • US$35 admission fee
  • US$100 for each final exam

Programs (to date)

  •  two- and four-year degrees in business administration and computer science.


  • volunteers (mainly retired professors)

Mode of teaching

  • use of open educational resources selected/managed by experienced professors
  • online peer-to-peer communities
  • online interaction with professors
  • online written exams (to date)
  • Internat access through UofPeople study centres (see caption of a UofP centre in Haiti), Internet cafés, and home

Partners include

  • United Nations
  • Yale University
  • New York University
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Open Courseware Consortium

No.of students to date:

  • 1,300 students from 129 countries, mostly from Nigeria, Indonesia, Haiti and the U.S.

Current full-time staff

  • 2


  • not yet


  • not for profit
  • mainly charitable/volunteers.
  • to contribute: click here

Main challenges

  • building a sustainable business model
  • getting accreditation
  • need for assurance that the enrolled student has done the work/sat the exam


This seems a much more desirable route than Coursera or even EdX, but funding remains the main challenge.

Student administration (e.g. student records), the need to meet accreditation requirements (including authentication of students) and IT requirements all require ongoing and sustainable funding. Volunteer faculty alone are not enough.

Ongoing financial support from national or international donor agencies or a substantial ongoing commitment from a foundation will be needed to make this very exciting initiative succeed. However, a relatively modest investment could generate huge returns.


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