A free university education with no teachers

A new coding university has opened in Silicon Valley called 42, the number from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy said to be the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

42 is a new university whose mission is to uncover talent in the field of programming. To achieve this, 42 is aiming to give all young people an opportunity to learn to code. Students are selected neither on the basis of financial ability nor educational degree, but solely on the basis of their talent and motivation.42 is open to anyone who is between the ages of 18 and 30, whether they possess an academic degree or not. The training is absolutely free: 42 is a non-profit organisation, so there are no registration or tuition fees. The university is said to offer its students the very best in terms of IT resources in order to make it possible for them to work in the best conditions.
This isn’t the first university of its kind. 42 has been doing well in France, started by the French businessman Xavier Niel in 2013, and there are already 2,500 students learning to code in Paris. The Silicon Valley site aims to educate 10,000 students within the next five years.Niel has invested $100 million to create a new school, including a brand new 200,000-square-foot building, open 24/7, and housing thousands of iMacs.After filling out an online application, students have four weeks to complete a series of coding and logic challenges. After the four weeks, the best students are chosen to study at 42.

No teachers and no classrooms

Unlike the average university, there are no teachers and no classrooms. Students are expected to learn a set of skills in 3–5 years. The school relies on peer reviews, coding projects, internships and gamification. Applications are now open and the first students will start studying in November."The feedback we have had from employers is that our graduates are more apt to go off and find out information for themselves, rather than asking their supervisor what to do next," says Brittany Bir, chief operating officer of 42 in California and a graduate of its sister school in Paris."Peer-to-peer learning develops students with the confidence to search for solutions by themselves, often in quite creative and ingenious ways."

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Ms Bir says 42's graduates will be better able to work with others and discuss and defend their ideas – an important skill in the "real world" of work. "This is particularly important in computer programming, where individuals are notorious for lacking certain human skills," she says.The opening of 42 also follows the rise of "coding academies" in the US, which offer short, intensive courses to thousands of students wanting to take advantage of the high demand for software developers.However, Britanny Bir admits 42's methods do not suit all students. During the month-long selection period, some applicants fell out because of the stresses of working closely together. It is easy to imagine reacting badly to a poor mark if it was given by the student sitting at the desk next to you. "It suits individuals who are very disciplined and self-motivated, and who are not scared by having the freedom to work at their own pace," she says.Nicolas Sadirac, director of 42 in Paris, says "The education system in France fails a lot of passionate students, who feel frustrated by being told what to do and how to do it. 42 has reminded them that learning can be fun if you follow what you are interested in, rather than being told by teachers to focus on one thing in particular."

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