UoPeople – How does it all work?

J. Francois Barnard – 20 October 2019

The University of the People, or UoPeople as we call it, is an online university, and they call themselves the “Education Revolution.” And revolutionary it is!

Here are a few facts about UoPeople:

  • It is an American University.
  • Its registered offices are in Pasadena, California, USA.
  • It is nationally accredited in the USA by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • The California Bureau approves it for Private Postsecondary Education.
  • In South Africa, the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) recognizes it as an “overseas institution.”
  • Their website is
  • The costs are minimal: Tuition is free. You pay a registration fee of $60 and, after that, $100 per exam. (Editor update in 2021: $120 per exam for undergraduate courses and $240 per assessment for graduate courses.)
  • All textbooks are either PDF documents or online available on websites – all free of charge.
  • Tuition is in English, and you have to prove proficiency.
  • You can obtain an associate degree (20 courses) or a bachelor’s degree (40 courses).
  • They also have master’s degrees (MBA, M.Ed., and MSIT) (Editor update: 12 courses for MBA and MSIT, 13 courses for M.Ed)
  • When I started, you could study Business Administration and Computer Science. In September 2017, they added Health Science.
  • The academic year starts on September 1, but you can join in any term.
  • The year is divided into five terms of nine weeks each.
  • That means that out of 52 weeks in the year, 45 are academic weeks. Relentless!
  • You usually take two courses per term.
  • If your grade point average (GPA) is high enough (≥ 3.00), you will be allowed to add a third course per term and thus “fast-track” your degree.
  • Out of 40 courses taken for a Bachelor’s degree, eleven have to be “proctored” when you write your exam.
  • There are strict rules about the proctor you choose. But you can use the online “ProctorU” service, which costs $14 per exam.

I initially registered in May 2017, right at the time when I turned 53. I was just in time for the start of term 5 of the 2016/17 academic year. During registration, I sent a copy of my South African matriculation certificate. I specified that English is not my home language and was required to take only one course: ENGL 0101 English Composition 1, a proctored course. I did well in this course, proving to UoPeople that I was proficient in English. (You do not have to do a TOEFL exam to demonstrate proficiency.) To pass this course, you have to score 73% or higher.

study011I felt sorry for the many other students who did not do well in English. English is my second language, and by then, I had already published a small booklet in both English and Afrikaans. It came easy for me, but some students from the Middle East and Asia really struggled.

The next term was term 1 of the 2017/18 academic year. I was registered for UNIV 1001 Online Education Strategies and BUS 1101 Principals of Business Management. The Thursday we started (September 1, 2017), the President of UoPeople, Shai Reshef, happened to be in Johannesburg. UoPeople arranged with several South African students to meet him. I was so honoured to meet the man who started this institution.

Later, after having completed my foundation courses, my program advisor, Victor, sent me the news that I was accepted as a “degree-seeking student.” I was now part of the UoPeople family.