Fake news, scholarships, partnerships

University of the People uopeople.edu FAQ, also known as "University of the Scammers"

The Israeli ✡ diploma mill that claims to be an "American university"

Fake news from UoPeople.edu

See also: Fake news about WASC regional accreditation

UoPeople computer centers in Haiti

After the catastriphic earthquake in Haiti in 2010, University of the People claimed to have built several computer centers for the earthquake victims. However, there are no UoPeople computer centers in Haiti. University of the People should be ashamed of spreading fake news like this, because many Haitians died during that terrible earthquake and this Israeli diploma mill has no respect for them. UoPeople PR office in Israel even paid nytimes.com to publish a fake story, with a fake (stolen) picture, about the alleged "UoPeople computer centers" in Haiti. Not only has UoPeople never built anything, but unfortunately some charity organizations and individual citizens generously agreed to give money, thus being scammed. UoPeople also uploaded the same stolen pictures to Wikipedia, where they were deleted though.

Fake news and reviews on websites, media outlets, Internet forums, YouTube etc.

The Israeli UoPeople.edu PR office uses international PR services such as einpresswire.com, prnewswire.com, cision.com, prweb.com and many more. UoPeople provides any kind of story — including fake news and clickbait articles — and those websites disseminate thousands of copies all over the Web. The more you pay, the more "important" the target websites are, which can include cnn.com, nytimes.com, forbes.com and so on. Therefore, when uninformed users see that article on Forbes' or New York Times' websites, they are like "Wow, wonderful news, and that's true because it's on forbes.com!" (or nytimes.com, or cnn.com etc.). Too bad the story and the interviews were completely invented by UoPeople.edu, and the journalist who put the name on the article doesn't even know what "UoPeople" is. This absurd situation has been going on for more than ten years by now. For example, the BBC published this headline: "University of the People: where students get free degrees". Fake news: UoPeople's "degrees" are not free, but cost thousands of dollars.

Moreover, University of the People's reps or ambassadors, who often disguise themselves as students, write hundreds of fake reviews on the Internet (Quora, Wikipedia, Medium, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, TrustPilot, forums of various kinds etc.) saying that UoPeople is "wonderful", "a dream come true", "free", "the best university in the world" and other nonsense. They will also tell you to "contact me and ask me anything". That is to say: pure spam.

University of the People also forces people from Africa or Asia, who are not students and have never attended UoPeople, to write "reviews", especially on Facebook. These "reviews", which are sometimes recognizable from their poor English, are like "thank you free university", "great free American university", "I like the scholarships", "I'm honored to use UoPeople.edu" etc. with five stars or a thumbs up. These reviewers have no idea what they are talking about: they still have to pay the admission fee and have only watched some UoPeople.edu ads without actually logging in to the website. UoPeople mostly uses them to inflate the average rating on Facebook.

Sarah Vanunu used to be the PR manager of UoPeople.edu. She worked (and still works) in her town in Israel. Her main goal was to spread fake news about UoPeople all over the Internet and make sure nobody mentioned "Israel". Indeed, UoPeople is located in Israel but doesn't want you to talk about Israel, otherwise they would lose their Arab customers, who don't know they are sending money to an Israeli organization. To make a long story short, whenever you mentioned Israel — e.g. to say that UoPeople's owner Shai Reshef was born in Israel — you got an email from Sarah Vanunu asking you to delete/censor the word "Israel". We refused to remove Israel, so we received a threatening letter from a "UoPeople.edu attorney" stating that UoPeople would file a lawsuit against us. If we remember correctly, the name of this idiot was Asaf Wolff — we have no idea who he really is, honestly. Anyway, we ignored his threats and deleted his letters. A few years later, we found out that Sarah Vanunu got fed up with being a representative of a scam: she left University of the People and now works for a more honest company. Better late than never.

Fake app

UoPeople claims to have developed a mobile app for iOS and Android to help poor people who can only access the Internet through slow connections. However, neither Google Play nor the Apple App Store has ever had this imaginary genuine app. Actually, UoPeople's subscription-based website — the non-refundable entry fee to visit the real website (and not just the promotional part) is $60 — is slow on all low-end mobile devices, and reading the pages is difficult: it uses a basic Moodle installation on shared hosting (they don't even have their own servers) which is not optimized for mobile devices, and is often slow on desktop computers too. Curiously, they issue "degrees" in computer science, but their website is clunky and they can't develop a decent mobile app.

On the other hand, Google Play has a few fake UoPeople closed-source apps, which are very dangerous because they can immediately steal your username and password while you log in to UoPeople.edu.

What a beautiful graduation ceremony!

Actually, at UoPeople there is no such thing as a real graduation ceremony. Being a diploma mill, you will get your piece of paper by mail after you pay all the fees, that's it.

Wikipedia

UoPeople.edu has been bombarding Wikipedia with ads, fake stories and fake pictures for a long time. Needless to say, most Wikipedia editors now consider UoPeople accounts a real nuisance, for example the paid users Weatherextremes and SimonBilesStan, who use Wikipedia just to spread fake news and sponsored articles about University of the people.

Reddit

UoPeople's subreddit is full of UoPeople reps who never disclose their identity, and actually claim to be "happy students". Since Reddit is free of charge, these reps can bombard the subreddit with lots of fake reviews and fake news, that is to say unlimited deceptive advertising.

Fake scholarships

Scholarships and grants are another old part of UoPeople's aggressive and deceptive marketing campaigns. The ads state there are "lots of scholarships for everyone". It turns out you must pay a $60 non-refundable fee just to inquire about the alleged scholarships. What UoPeople.edu never says is that there are no scholarships for Master's degrees or Bachelor's degrees. Indeed, about 1% of the students get a discount on their total tuition: they will only pay two years instead of four. In other words, it is a pseudo-random discount used in advertising campaigns to attract new customers, which will all have to pay $60 upfront anyway — a great way to make money quickly. WASC-WSCUC confirm that UoPeople.edu does not distribute financial aid.

Moreover, the ads about the alleged scholarships contradict the claim that UoPeople is tuition-free, because if courses were free, there would be no need to spread clickbait articles about scholarships. This is how the scholarship-related scam works, step by step:

  1. people — especially from developing countries — look for scholarships on the Internet;

  2. they come across sponsored clickbait articles claiming that "a great tuition-free university is giving lots of scholarships";

  3. people click the article but end up paying the non-refundable "administrative fee".

Fake partnerships

The regionally-unaccredited University of the People often claims to "partner" with well-known accredited universities. Too bad the alleged partnerships are a ripoff: some are invented, others are useless.

We cannot comment on the invented ones just because they do not exist, but we can comment on the oldest one: the partnership with University of Edinburgh. This is what UoPeople.edu claims:

We are honored to announce our collaboration with the University of Edinburgh which aims to support students uprooted by war, famine and natural disasters. Health Science graduates from UoPeople will be eligible to apply to the University of Edinburgh to a complete a bachelor's degree in Health, Science and Society.

First of all, a page that starts with "we are honored to announce" suggests that this is a recent statement; too bad it is the same story that dates back to 2017, but UoPeople.edu keeps removing or changing the date.

That being said, the partnership allows hypothetical UoPeople graduates to apply for undergraduate studies in Edinburgh. It should be noted that it is not guaranteed that University of Edinburgh will accept the students: a former UoPeople student simply can apply. But anyone can apply anyway, there is no need to be a UoPeople student! Besides, why on earth should we give thousands of dollars to University of the People for a useless diploma, if we can enroll in a real college right away without paying anyone? Bottom line: it is just a way for the University of the People to squeeze money out of people and waste their time.

Have you ever wondered how many "students" exploited this wonderful "partnership"? Ranald Leask, international PR & media manager at the University of Edinburgh, can give us the official answer: "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.", which is a polite way to say that 0 (zero) UoPeople students have been accepted at the University of Edinburgh.

Other alleged "partners" (NYU, Berkeley etc.) do not seem to use very different mechanisms: if admitted, you will have the opportunity to become an undergraduate student. But anyone can already become an undergraduate student anywhere (if admitted), so why waste time and money with UoPeople.edu? The only sensible answer is they are desperate for money and would do anything for it.

Fake partnership with Harvard University

The latest claim is that "UoPeople has a new partnership with Harvard University": that is to say, UoPeople.edu is now trying to impress people by using Harvard's name and logo (see also Unauthorized logos) — although the Israeli diploma mill has nothing to do with Harvard, obviously. To show the new alleged partnership, UoPeople.edu links to this webpage: https://online.hbs.edu/organizations/collaborating-colleges/ However, that page does not say that Harvard University has formed a partnership with University of the People! That is just a list of institutions that asked the webmaster to add their logo, by clicking "Contact us". Any school can be added: it is not a partnership of any kind with Harvard University. What is more, people who attend Harvard Business School Online's courses are not even considered Harvard students. UoPeople.edu managed to have its logo added and now claims to be a "partner", but most likely Harvard University does not even know what University of the People is. As usual, it goes without saying that there is no need to be a "UoPeople student" to attend HBS online courses — which should not be confused with Harvard University anyway.

Fake partnerships with Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Columbia University, New York University, Oxford University (UK) etc.

We suggest you do this simple experiment. Phone Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, New York University, Oxford University — luckily they all have a real phone number, unlike UoPeople.edu — and ask them if they "have a partnership", if they "work with", of if they "are affiliated with" University of the People, as UoPeople's reps or ambassadors claim. The answer is no, the universities of Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Columbia and New York have nothing to do with UoPeople, and in most cases they have no idea what University of the People is. Unfortunately, UoPeople keeps disseminating old sponsored articles and press releases claiming the diploma mill "works with" Harvard, Berkeley, NYU and others. It is funny that UoPeople tends to only mention Ivy League institutions with MIT or Oxford (UK): all the other universities in the world are worthless. A pretty naive PR strategy.

Fake partnerships with the United Nations and its agencies

This is another fake story that used to appear on UoPeople's sponsored articles, and still appears on their website. The reality is the United Nations and its agencies do not have any partnerships with University of the People, nor is University of the People affiliated with them. As the United Nations' official website states,

BEWARE OF SCAMS IMPLYING ASSOCIATION WITH THE UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations has been made aware of various correspondences, being circulated via e-mail, from Internet web sites, text messages and via regular mail or facsimile, falsely stating that they are issued by, or in association with the United Nations and/or its officials. These scams, which may seek to obtain money and/or in many cases personal details from the recipients of such correspondence, are fraudulent. […] [In particular:] The United Nations does not offer prizes, awards, funds, certificates, compensation, scholarships […]

Nevertheless, University of the People keeps telling us that the diploma mill has partnerships and affiliations with the UN, that it offers UN scholarships, and even uses the UN logos — without being legally authorized to do so (see also Unauthorized logos) — just to mislead people.