Gaia University Basics
Gaia University is not a traditional brick-and-mortar university. We are an international organization, network and online university registered both in the UK and in the USA. Degree and diploma requirements may be met through our online offerings and documented project work. We encourage everyone to connect with other world-changers by reaching out to local and bioregional organizations. Our partner associations have established educational offerings as well as sites in various parts of the world. These demonstration sites are often based in ecovillages, permaculture centers or transition towns and demonstrate regenerative enterprise and models for a new economy. By connecting to a partner association, or making use of local resource organizations, Gaia U associates have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of regenerative design techniques and technologies while they participate in on-site residential intensives, courses, internships and conferences. These experiences when appropriately documented fulfill requirements for Gaia University.
By keeping our infrastructure light, we are able to offer our programs without the government and corporate funding upon which most universities depend. This gives us greater freedom to offer the kind of learning designs needed to support the work of proactive, self-directed, creative and flexible learners. By not employing tenured professors, building maintenance staff, etc., as do traditional campuses, we are able to funnel more than sixty-five percent of tuition fees back to our advisors and administrative support, and to the development of projects needed to support bioregional associations offering grassroots educational programs to their local communities.
Gaia University offers its required courses online and has a vibrant eLearning environment for the exchange of ideas and resources and the showcasing of project work. Student associates also spend a considerable period of their degree or diploma study engaged in self-designed and directed local (or nomadic projects) which are documented, mentored and evaluated by self, peers and professional advisors. We also encourage interface with partner associations and bioregional organizations resulting in a “blended” methodology.
Accreditation and Credit Transfer
No. There is no single international university-level accreditation system. There is neither a common description of qualification levels internationally, nor a common pattern of program designs. There are also no international agreements around the transferability of qualifications across national borders. Recognizing the limitations of such a system, we are working with the Ecoversity network to develop an international accreditation agency for action learning.
Maybe yes, maybe no. No university can guarantee that its students or graduates can transfer credits to any other higher education institution as each institution has its own requirements and standards. An advantage a Gaia U associate may have is that an ePortfolio of work along with a credit transcript may be a more potent indication of the actual learning achieved than a transcript alone. We have had several graduates accepted to Masters and Doctoral programs in more conventional universities in the USA and India.
Yes. You may request a transcript of credits accumulated during your Gaia University program. In addition, you will emerge from your Gaia University program with a record of your accomplishments in the form of a digital ePortfolio of great depth. These portfolios are viewable online and can be offered to other institutions as powerful evidence of your critical thinking abilities, self-discipline, creativity, and professionalism.
We assess prior credit accumulation on an individual basis from the evidence provided during the application process. We consider experience as well as academic credit as important evidence in granting admission and accreditation for prior learning and experience.
Yes. This happens through our Accreditation of Prior Learning and Experience (APL/E) system. APL/E is the means through which learning acquired by formal means (e.g. college attendance) or informal means (e.g. work experience, specialized trainings) is valued and offset against credit requirements for a qualification.
Unlikely. Governments usually only fund their citizens to study at universities in their own country, and at those recognized by the most formal of their domestic accreditation agencies.
In the United States, for example, Gaia U associates are not eligible for the Title IV grants and loans offered to students of universities which are accredited by agencies recognized by the US Dept of Education. The positive side of this prohibition for US Gaia University associates is that they will not accumulate the debt that many students accumulate over the course of their studies. We prefer that our associates graduate as debt-free as possible, earning while learning, so that as graduates they are free to pursue the work that is their passion.
Life As a Gaia U Associate
Your personal situation and the nature of your project work are the two main factors that influence where you choose to live while you attend Gaia University. If your family, work or community life is rooted in a specific location, you are free to remain there for the duration of your program. Alternately, you may want to travel to a site away from home, or a variety of sites, to pursue your learning and project work. There are no limitations as to where you may live or travel as long as you can maintain access to a stable internet connection.
We do not conduct exams. Instead, your work is assessed based on the quality and depth of your documentation using criteria of which you are aware. You will also give two presentations each year in a mid-year and end-of-year webinar or workshop either online or at a bioregional association event.
The Gaia University equivalent to homework is an output packet. An output packet is an in-depth, digital report on your learning journey and project work. Associates in degree programs are required to produce one output packet every six to eight weeks for a total of 5 output packets in every year of their program. Associates in diploma programs have similar output packet requirements, albeit lighter.
For the majority of your enrollment, you will be immersed in self-selected, self-directed projects and learning experiences in your home community or any other place in the world you choose. You will have regularly scheduled online meetings with your peer guild and advisors, and will post regular installments of your process and project documentation to your ePortfolio on our eLearning site. Your work will be evaluated by you, your peers and your advisors in regular output/design packet webinars. You may also choose to do specialized coursework, apprenticeships or internships.
Yes. While we do not offer classes throughout the year like most traditional universities, our associates are required to attend online courses at the beginning of their program and webinars throughout the year (on Gaia Radio), as well as give mid-year and end-of-year presentations either on Gaia Radio or at an affiliate event.
You will be graded though not in a traditional manner. Each of your output packets will be reviewed and graded in a 3-tiered process: self, peer, and advisor review. You will participate in online live webinars to support your growth in critical thinking and evaluation. Your main advisor will provide feedback on each of your output packets in a detailed, written report as well. Our review criteria are transparent so that you always know upon what basis you will be evaluated. At the end of the capstone year of your program, an external reviewer will evaluate your work to ensure that its quality meets the graduation requirements of both Gaia University and our accreditation agency, IMC.
Through decades of experience, we have found that a small amount of potent theory is generally sufficient inspiration for at least a year of practice. We work from the theory of emergent curricula, also known as just-in-time learning. The workshops and online courses that are a required part of your program will introduce you to models and theories that may provide powerful inspiration for your continued learning. Our Gaia Radio content webinars are also opportunities to hear guest speakers and discuss new ideas. While your learning is facilitated by a sophisticated advising and support network, it is you, the associate, who has the freedom to work from your curiosity and passion and actively create learning opportunities for yourself through your self-created pathway design and the specialists and collaborators with whom you choose to align.
Yes. There are required readings in each of the online course modules during the start of your program. Gaia U associates are also required to engage in research related to their project work. Understanding how others have approached similar concerns, learning the latest thinking in your fields of interest are important aspects of gaining an effective perspective on any topic. A required piece of an output packet is a section in which you document the resources and readings you have consulted during your project work. In addition, advisors, mentors, and teaching staff may suggest reading for you. None of this is specifically required and you are free to pursue what makes the most sense to you and your particular learning journey.
Yes. The previous paradigm of competitiveness needs to shift to a new paradigm of collaboration to meet the needs of a planet and culture in peril. We encourage collaboration among associates worldwide. Peer guilds, worldwide connection through forums on our eLearning environment, monthly All Gaia Community calls and peer review of output packets are some of the means for connection. We also encourage associates to use the tools they learn in Gaia U to connect with members of their local communities.
Yes. Since our programs are based on a 12-month cycle, you are free to take vacation time when desired as long as you fulfill the requirements of your program and output packet production. You may also request “pause” during times you wish to take vacation.
Yes. By using our “pause” and “extension” options, you can extend any one program year up to 24 additional months.
Since we are on a UK accreditation system, bachelor’s degrees take a minimum of 3 years; master’s degrees a minimum of 2 years; post-graduate diplomas a minimum of one year. Diplomas in areas such as permaculture, ecovillage design, or resilience, are a minimum of 2 years and can be followed by a year 2 pre-capstone phase for bachelor’s, or capstone phase (final phase) of bachelors or masters year to achieve a degree.
For many of our graduates, professional work develops from internships, apprenticeships and other collaborations they may engage in during the course of their project work. Having an online ePortfolio to share with potential employers and clients has also proven to be an important support. Many of our graduates develop their own entrepreneurial or consulting businesses, others work for various non-profits. Our advisors are Gaia University graduates – so for people suited to this type of work, there is a potential income stream within Gaia University itself. See the profiles of our advisors and graduates for further inspiration. Thus far, we do not have any “unemployed” graduates!
One of the advantages of our action learning methodology is that you have the possibility to work (“earn and learn”) while pursuing your program. Many of our associates cover their costs by working for pay, often in their field of interest and documenting their paid work experiences in their output packets. Others work part-time and use their earnings for living expenses or travel. You have the freedom to choose your approach, keeping in mind that your program will require significant time and energy to maintain. You should expect to dedicate 15 – 20 hours a week to project and documentation work. If your paid work is chosen strategically, you may be earning during half of this time.