1955: Shai Reshef

Welcome to 70 Faces of Israel. To celebrate 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, we’re looking at 70 people whose remarkable stories have changed our country and the world.


Name: Shai Reshef

Date of Birth: 11th September 1955, Israel

Claim to Fame: Education Entrepreneur and Founder of the University of the People

In 1955… Shai Reshef was born




Shai Reshef, University of the People

Shai Reshef (source: forbes.com)

Born in 1955 in Israel, Shai Reshef is an award-winning entrepreneur with a passion for education. He studied political science at Tel Aviv University, then worked alongside his father as a carpenter. He received a master’s degree in Chinese Politics and a PhD on political sociology from the University of Michigan before entering the world of business.


After completing his education in the US, Reshef returned to Israel in 1985. He wanted to impact Israel’s development, so joined the Israeli Movement for Citizens’ Rights. As the Director for Special Actions, he organised demonstrations and rallies.


Reshef served as the CEO and Chairman of the Kidum group, a test preparation company, for 16 years. He increased its annual revenues more than 250 times over, and eventually sold the company on. He then invested in Cramster, an online study community.


Shai Reshef and the University of the People


Shai Reshef, University of the People

Shai Reshef (source: LolaPics/wikimedia)

In 2009, Shai announced his latest – and biggest – initiative. The University of the People isn’t just changing education across the world; it’s revolutionising it. Shai felt that access to higher education was limited to the elite few who could afford the luxury of time and tuition. He also found it unfair that countless students faced cultural and financial barriers prohibiting their studies.


Reshef founded the University of the People because he believed that students – and potential students – across the world deserved better. He wanted to create an affordable, scalable, accessible alternative to traditional universities. Moreover, he wanted to pop the elitist bubble and bring education to the masses.


Shai is fulfilling his goal of democratising education. The University of the People is linked to . More than 3,000 professors – including the deans and chairs of international schools – volunteer their time and resources. There is no cost for tuition or books: students pay for exams, and scholarships are available to help cover that, too. The university is fully accredited and has links with some of the biggest schools in the world.


Reshef believes that education is a right, not a privilege. Therefore, his university brings affordable, relevant, accessible higher education to people across the globe. Shai is a true visionary, and his remarkable school epitomises the innovation and compassion that Israel stands for.


Previously: 1954: Uri Ilan

Up next: 1956: Nechama Leibowitz


Shai delivered a TED talk, “An Ultra Low-Cost College Degree” in 2014. The online video has more than 5,000,000 views! Watch the video below: