The University of the People, a non-profit, tuition-free online university based in the US, has received a $1m donation from Fondation Hoffmann, a Swiss foundation supporting projects in sustainable development and education, towards scholarships for Syrian refugees.
The funding means UoPeople is now well on its way to raising its target of $2.4m to allow it to provide scholarships for 500 Syrian refugees to study bachelor’s degrees in computer science and business administration.
“I do feel that our Syrian initiative gets a lot of support, and I’m sure that we’ll find the resources to make it”
The university is currently in talks with a number of organisations that are interested in donating to the fund, and its president, Shai Reshef, told The PIE News he is confident that talks with a second foundation about a further $1m donation will come to fruition in the coming months.
“I do feel that our Syrian initiative gets a lot of support, and I’m sure that we’ll find the resources to make it,” he said.
Though the university is tuition-free, students usually pay end-of-course exam fees that amount to $4,000 over a four-year degree, which will be covered by the scholarships.
So far, 100 Syrian scholarship students have already been accepted to UoPeople and have started studying on the university’s preliminary English courses, which will prepare them for the English exam they must pass in order to begin their degree.
Around half of these students are living within Syria, with others in Turkey, Germany, the UK, Lebanon and a number of other countries.
The university has received some 1,300 applications so far for the scholarships, and Reshef said he expects a further 250 students will be accepted in the next month.
Reshef noted that Syrian refugees have been a contentious topic in recent months, garnering both humanitarian and hostile responses. However, he commented: “I believe that you should support them whether you like them or hate them: what I’m trying to say is even if you want them out of your country, give them education. They will be much more marketable to find a job elsewhere.”
“And definitely if you want them to go back to Syria and rebuild Syria, give them the education to be able to do so,” he added. “So a lot of people believe in [our initiative].”
At the same time as raising funds for the Syrian scholarships, UoPeople is also gathering donations to support the ongoing operation of the university.
However, it will become financially self-sustaining when it reaches 4,000 students, which it is expected to reach by the end of this year, provided it meets its target of doubling student numbers each year.
“Achieving financial sustainability is a really important milestone for us because while it’s great to have donations, I want to be able to say I don’t need donations for the operation,” Reshef commented.