The University of Nicosia (UNIC), the largest private university in Cyprus, has been a trailblazer for integrating blockchain into its academic curriculum. It can boast a number of firsts – the first university to offer a cryptocurrency course, the first to accept Bitcoin for tuition payments, the first to launch a full academic degree in blockchain (MSc in Digital Currency) and the first to write academic certificates (of its graduating students) to the blockchain.
UNIC Blockchain Initiative
For these reasons, UNIC considers itself to be a world leader in Bitcoin and blockchain technology education. At the 2018 Blockchain Expo held in Amsterdam, it was the inaugural winner of the “Biggest Contributor to the Rise of Blockchain” award.
“We pride ourselves on pushing the envelope in university adoption of blockchain technology and advancing cutting-edge research and education in this area. We are particularly pleased when our efforts are recognised in this way, as part of Europe’s largest annual blockchain event.”Prof. Soulla Louca, Director of the UNIC’s Blockchain.
UNIC’s blockchain efforts go beyond its integration of the technology into the academic curriculum. For example, under the banner of its ‘Blockchain Initiative’, the university is developing a Comprehensive Framework for turning Cyprus into a hub for Bitcoin trading, processing and banking.
The university has been at the forefront of efforts to meet the growing demand for blockchain expertise and launched a dedicated graduate degree program back in Spring 2014. UNIC’s motivation for this was that “no existing degree program fully captured the interdisciplinary nature of decentralized digital currencies and their practical applications.”
Online Degree Program
The Master of Science degree in Digital Currency is a distance-learning online degree program, meaning students can enrol worldwide. Taught in English, the degree is “designed to help financial services and business professionals, entrepreneurs, government officials and public administrators better understand the technical underpinnings of digital currency, how it will likely interact with existing monetary and financial systems, and what opportunities exist for innovation in digital currency systems.”
The program is typically completed in 13-18 months (split over three semesters) and consists of a range of required and elective courses, as well as the option to undertake a thesis or project. Particularly interesting courses that focus primarily on blockchain include:
- Blockchain Technology and Applications (DFIN-524) – a required course which aims to “provide conceptual understanding of the function of Blockchains as a method of securing distributed ledgers, how consensus on their contents is achieved, and the new applications that they enable.”
- Emerging Topics and Practical Considerations in Blockchains (MIS-536) – an elective course which aims to “provide students with a conceptual framework and applied competencies that will assist them understand, apply, assess and manage blockchain based systems and resources supporting the implementation or utilization of digital currencies as well as other decentralized applications.”
Teaching methods are primarily based around online lectures, practical exercises, individual and group projects, and case studies.
The online degree program currently costs €12,080 (circa $14,000), although a 5% discount is offered for students who choose to pay their tuition fees with Bitcoin! Financial aid is also available via a number of a need-based and merit scholarships.
However, there is good news for all as the very first course of the degree program – Introduction to Digital Currencies (DFIN-511) – is offered free online as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
Free Introductory MOOC
The MOOC provides a “technical overview of decentralized digital currencies like Bitcoin, as well as their broader economic, legal and financial context.”
The course is delivered across 12 live online sessions (in English), with additional study material provided on the virtual learning environment Moodle. Each live session focuses on a different theme. For example, one session focuses on alternative uses of the blockchain.
Co-taught by leading Bitcoin expert Andreas Antonopoulos and dynamic UNIC CEO Antonis Polemitis, the course centres around four broad themes:
- Theoretical introduction to digital currencies
- Practical introduction to digital currencies
- Banking, financial and regulatory implications of digital currencies
- Innovation & development
It provides an excellent introductory overview of decentralized blockchain-based digital currencies and no previous knowledge is required. As of February 2019, over 22,500 students from around the world have enrolled. There are two cohorts a year (Fall and Spring) and you can register for the next course cohort here.
For those who successfully pass the final exam and are inspired to pursue the full online degree program, credit will be awarded.
Blockchain Professional Certification Program
UNIC also provides an intermediate option for those blockchain enthusiasts who seek to go beyond the introductory MOOC but do not wish to pursue the full academic online degree program. These ‘Professional Certification Programs’ are open to all, particularly those looking to develop careers as blockchain business analysts, financial analysts or developers.
There are currently three programs available, each of which consists of three six-week courses based on those offered in the MSc degree program:
- Blockchain Financial Analyst Certification
- Blockchain Business Analyst Certification
- Blockchain Developer Certification
UNIC also partnered with the University College London Centre for Blockchain Technologies (UCL CBT) and Cyprus Blockchain Technologies (CBT) to hold a Blockchain Executive Summer School in Limassol, Cyprus in October 2018. Aimed at senior executives and managers, the three-day course examined the underlying technology, economic implications and business applications of blockchains, as well as regulatory implications and case studies.