News Dec 23rd 2016

California Welcomes a University Without Teachers 

California student

The university is called 42, taken from the answer to the meaning of life from the science fiction series from Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  

The school is a branch of the French university of the same name and aims to train about 1,000 students each year in coding and software development. The students will assist one another with projects and grade each other's work. 

Many wonder how parents will feel about this education style when it comes to their college students and the zero contact method being used.

The French branch of 42 opened in 2013 and applications have come pouring in.

Zero Tuition Fees

Students who have graduated from 42 are obtaining employment at big name companies such as Amazon, IBM and Tesla. Many others are starting their own companies.  

Founded by Xavier Niel, a tech billionaire, 42 has the backing to offer free tuition and accommodation.  

Niel and his partners are attempting to revolutionise education. His background in the world of technology and start-ups gives him the tools and knowledge to do just that. 

The university aims to use a combination of peer-to-peer learning and project-based learning to teach students at 42. Both techniques are very popular among researchers, but 42 is trying them out without the instruction of a teacher.  

The projects offered to 42 students simulate those they might work on as part of their job, for example designing a computer game or website. They are completed by using information available on the Internet and by working with fellow students in the university's large open-plan computer room. Once the work is finished, another student will be assigned at random to grade the project.  

As each project is completed, students advance a level. When a student reaches level 21, they are able to graduate. This generally takes three to five years and completion comes with a certificate, but no formal degree. 


The founders of 42 feel that this revolutionary style of learning makes up for some of the gaps in the current education system. Some feel that the way things are done at traditional universities creates a passive style of knowledge that doesn't allow students to be hands-on until they get a job. 

Learning from Learners 

Both the founders of 42 and employers of their graduates say that the peer-to-peer method of learning equips people with the confidence to look for solutions on their own. This often results in creativity and out of the box thinking that might otherwise not occur.  

Employees of 42 maintain that its graduates will be better able to work with others, as well as defend and implement their own ideas. This is a vital skill in the real world and the workforce.

It's a very important skill for computer technicians, who are sometimes known for their lack of social skills.  

The peer-to-peer method of learning is not new and many other universities use it, especially those that specialize in engineering fields of study.  Research shows that this method of learning can help students gain a deeper understanding of a certain subject than lectures may do. However, one professor feels that 42 has gone a step too far by removing instructors from the teaching environment. His research indicates that the peer-to-peer style of teaching works better when a teacher is present to assist. 

Self-Motivated Students 

Founders of 42 admit that not all students will respond well to this style of learning. Those who are motivated and self-disciplined may find 42 the right fit for them. It's great for students who have not been successful in traditional university atmospheres. The environment at 42 lets students see that learning can be fun.

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