Health sciences lecturer Kate Tairyan will join Governor General David Johnston in a roundtable discussion at the AAAS conference where she hopes to help publicize, the world’s first tuition-free online university.


Health lecturer promotes free university

February 16, 2012

The mere thought of participating in an international roundtable discussion with Canada’s Governor General David Johnston at the world’s largest science fair in Vancouver this month makes physician and SFU health sciences lecturer Kate Tairyan nervous.

It’s a “big step up for global health education,” says Tairyan, who will use the opportunity at the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, to promote, the world’s first tuition-free online university.

Tairyan is also NextGenU’s public health director and one of two Canadian Rising Stars in Global Health federal grant recipients the Governor General has invited to the roundtable on gaining more global recognition for promising entrepreneurs.

NextGenU, which opens it’s virtual doors this spring, is initially emphasizing health education, targeting millions of existing and prospective students in the developing world to help meet a global shortage of more than four million health workers.

Tariyan is nurturing the NextGenU project with a $100,000 Canadian Rising Stars grant from Grand Challenges Canada, which she won for a video about the free university. In the video, she demonstrated the fledgling free university could evolve into a coordinated application of scientific, technological, social and business innovation to solve complex challenges in educating health professionals.

“Imagine a prof from Harvard, Oxford or other world-class universities coming to your house to give a lecture or share some open-source peer-reviewed articles,” says Tairyan.

“You then discuss the questions to test your knowledge. You work with your mentor to apply what you just learned and the cycle continues until you feel comfortable with the competency you are trying to achieve.”

Tairyan looks forward to telling other roundtable participants including scientists and government representatives how NextGenU has met the challenge of granting online degrees and other credentials for free. “We’ve established partnerships with governments, universities and accrediting organizations locally and globally,” she says, “to co-offer the credentials students will obtain through to practice locally and afar.”

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