Foreign Policy, one of the world's most important magazines, has selected Israeli businessman and educational entrepreneur Shai Reshef, 57, founder of the University of the People,
as one of the world's Top 100 Global Thinkers.
Three years ago, Reshef started an online university allowing students from all over the world to study for free, through the Internet, for a recognized bachelor's degree.
The university has students from China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda, Mali, Peru, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, and many other countries.
The New York and Yale universities are partners in the project, and more than 3,000 professors from the world's most important universities participate in it voluntarily, including the presidents of Oxford and New York universities.
Studies in the university are virtual. Some 20-30 students from 20-30 countries participate in each course. They enter a virtual classroom using a password, receive the written lecture and engage in a discussion. The students also get homework. A voluntary tutor oversees the studies, and if the students fail to find answers to the questions they raise – he helps them.
Students don't pay tuition, but are charged a nominal amount for examinations. Those who cannot afford that sum are offered scholarships. There are two admission requirements: Twelve years of school education and knowledge of English.
At this stage the university is offering B.A. studies in business administration and computer science. These fields were chosen to allow graduates to quickly integrate into the labor market. B.A. studies last four years, and the degree is currently recognized in the state of California. Additional states are expected to recognize the university's degrees in the near future.
Shai Reshef says in his lectures that he believes his university advances world peace, as the same classroom can have a Pakistani student studying with an Indian student, a Greek student studying with a Turkish student, and an Israeli student studying with a Palestinian student.
"I believe that if you educate one person, you can change a life; if you educate many, you can change the world," he said in a recent lecture.
The prizes for the Top 100 Global Thinkers will be handed out in Washington on Thursday in the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Israeli author David Grossman made it to the distinguished list last year.
Shai Reshef was unavailable for comment.