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Another Odd University of the People “Partnership”

By Derek Newton

It’s not possible yet to say exactly what University of the People (UoPeople) is. But it’s clear already that, most of the time, it’s not what it says it is.

We know the “non-profit school” has sent millions of dollars in tuition and grant money to an off-shore, for-profit company it owns. Its “admissions office” is in a monthly rental “virtual office” and that it’s not a fully, completely accredited university, even though it claims it is.   

Perhaps even more troubling is that the “University” is awfully misleading about its stature and prestige, touting “partnerships” with well-known universities that aren’t much more than press releases and an excuse to slap another school’s logo on its own marketing.

In February, California Berkeley said their partnership with University of the People was “under review” and that, as of then, exactly one student had matriculated from one school to the other.  That “partnership” simply allows students who “studied” at University of the People to apply for admission at Berkeley – just as any other student could.

That’s despite the fact that UoPeople has the Berkely logo clearly plastered on their website as an “academic partner” saying, “UoPeople partners with top universities worldwide to create unique, stimulating opportunities for our students. These partnerships enhance our online degrees with top of the line academic programs and research.”

Ah, no. Berkeley does not provide any program or research or academic support to UoPeople. So that’s clearly misleading if not downright false.

And it’s not the only example.

Alongside the Berkeley logo is the logo of the University of Edinburgh. And like Berkeley, it’s an actual college. Also like Berkeley, it seems that its “partnership” with University of the People isn’t much of anything either. So far, exactly zero students have moved from UoPeople to Edinburgh – zero.

“Although we have yet to welcome any students through our partnership, this track remains open and we look forward to collaborating with University of the People in the future.” Ranald Leask, the International PR & Media Manager at The University of Edinburgh, said by e-mail.

Even further, it appears the Edinburgh/UoPeople partnership is limited anyway, a detail not disclosed on the UoPeople site. “Health Science graduates from University of the People can apply to Edinburgh to complete a bachelor’s degree in Health, Science and Society,” Leask said.

So, it appears the arrangement is limited to health graduates and so far, no one has benefited from it. That’s some partnership. But the logo looks pretty.

While the layers of University of the People are still unraveling, it’s still odd that credible, actual schools like Berkeley and Edinburgh continue to let shady operators bask in their credibility – convincing eager students that those partners somehow “enhance” their degrees.