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HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco awards the 2016 Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy to Shai Reshef of University of the People


The 2016 Prince's Prize for Innovative Philanthropy has been awarded to Shai Reshef of University of the People (UoPeople). UoPeople is the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, accredited online university, dedicated to opening access to higher education. Grounded in the belief that knowledge is a key ingredient of world peace, UoPeople uses open-source technology, Open Educational Resources and the assistance of academic volunteers to provide access to collegiate-level studies to qualified individuals from over 180 countries, regardless of geographic, financial or societal constraints.

Shai Reshef, President of UoPeople, is an educational entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in the international education market. He founded the university with the conviction that higher education should be seen as a basic right, and that it has the power to both transform the lives of individuals and be an important force for societal change.

The University offers Associate and Bachelor degree programs in Business Administration and Computer Science and is currently in the process of developing new Health Science and MBA degrees. With its tuition-free online programs, UoPeople provides access to higher education for all those constrained, as well as builds a scalable and replicable model capable of changing the very nature of higher education. The university expects to reach 5,000 students in 2016 and double the number of its students every year after that. The non-profit has managed to reduce almost the entire cost of higher education and does not charge for tuition, books, or materials. Students take the courses for free but are expected to pay modest examination fees ($100) levied per course, and for those who cannot afford this minimal fee, scholarships are available.

“Mr Reshef founded the University of the People with the strong conviction that higher education creates new life opportunities to many students, families and communities,” said HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. 

Recently, UoPeople announced it had allocated funding for the scholarships of 500 refugees, predominantly from Syria, residing all over the world. “Possessing a degree impacts not only on the personal circumstances of students, their families and communities, but it also holds significant value for the economic and social development of the countries in which they live or may live in the future,” said Shai Reshef.  “Higher education needs to be a right for all and not a privilege for the few. I believe it is important that world leaders recognize that education is the most effective solution for addressing many of the world’s most pressing issues.  What UoPeople sets out to show is that quality higher education can be accessible and affordable, even for the most constrained individuals around the world for whom the idea of higher education may seem far out of reach. When you educate one person, you can change a person’s life, but when you educate many, you can change the world.”

The Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy is a global initiative developed jointly by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and the Tocqueville Foundation in Paris, France. Its aim is to promote inspiring and innovative initiatives in the field of strategic philanthropy. The Prince’s Prize results from HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco’s close involvement in the Prince’s Roundtable on Philanthropy, a closed-door discussion of leading international philanthropists which takes place every year in Monaco immediately following the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.