University of the People (UoPeople) has announced its plans to increase its reach among South African students, with local enrolment having expanded from 13 students in 2015 to nearly 1 600 students today.
UoPeople is the first non-profit, tuition-free, American-accredited online university, dedicated to providing access to higher education globally to help qualified high school graduates overcome the financial, geographic, political and personal constraints keeping them from university studies. UoPeople’s total enrolment grew 107% in the past year to 75 392 students and is on track to surpass 100 000 students from more than 200 countries soon – making it the fastest-growing online university in the world.
In South Africa there are an estimated 1,4-million individuals who have completed secondary education but have been unable to enrol in a bachelor’s degree program due to limited seats or financial constraints.
Spurred on by the impacts of Covid-19, international markets have already seen massive change with many universities developing online programs that some call the post-pandemic future of education.
In South Africa, the pandemic has had much the same impact with the majority of universities moving to an online platform. This move, however, has still not provided enough educational opportunities or addressed the dire need within South Africa’s so-called missing middle student demographic.
UoPeople’s flexibility and affordability is ideal for the missing middle students, which includes those who cannot afford to attend university themselves but are above the income threshold to qualify for governmental funding. These students generally are considered middle-class with household incomes between R120 000 to R600 000 per annum. While traditional on-campus bachelor’s degrees can cost approximately R150 000, a bachelor’s degree from UoPeople will cost roughly R69 000 – reducing the total cost by more than 50%.
The University of Cape Town’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, serves on the President’s Council of UoPeople, together with presidents and vice-chancellors from the best universities in the world.
“I am very proud of the quality of UoPeople and its achievements to date. The university is building a great model that can solve Africa’s higher education crisis, lack of seats and, in many cases, lack of quality,” says Prof Phakeng.
UCT recently launched South Africa’s first online secondary school for grade 8-12s.
Founded in 2009, UoPeople offers four high-demand academic programmes: Business Administration, Computer Science, Health Science, and Education. These programmes were specifically chosen for their real-world relevancy and students can study from anywhere, on any device – even a mobile phone.
“UoPeople is the university that makes higher education accessible to local students, removing barriers to their success and empowering them to achieve,” says UoPeople president Shai Reshef. “We are happy for students who have succeeded in securing seats in local universities; however, UoPeople was created to accommodate all qualified students, not simply the few.”