CoinDesk’s 2020 Blockchain University Rankings

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On 6 October 2020, CoinDesk published its 2020 blockchain university rankings. The leading blockchain news outlet spent several months conducting in-depth research and analysis, to identify which universities are leading the way in blockchain technology.

CoinDesk limited its focus to the 46 U.S. universities which featured in the top-30 of either the U.S. News and World Report Best Global Universities, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities, or QS World University Rankings. A mix of quantitative and qualitative data covering a range of metrics was then used to score these universities across four broad categories:

  • Scholarly Impact (29% weighting) – based upon the number of blockchain- or cryptocurrency-related research papers, citations, and first-author credits;
  • Campus Blockchain Offerings (40% weighting) – based upon whether the university has a dedicated blockchain research centre, an active student blockchain club, the number and breadth of blockchain courses offered, and any blockchain degrees, minors, or concentrations;
  • Employment and Industry Outcomes (20% weighting) – based upon a survey of industry stakeholders and the LinkedIn footprint of over 100 of the largest blockchain companies and their 12,000+ employees;
  • Academic Reputation (11% weighting) – based upon world university rankings and a qualitative survey of academics and students.

To ensure the rankings were as rigorous as possible, CoinDesk placed particular emphasis on utilizing external, quantitative data where it was available. This was supplemented with qualitative data from over 550 responses to a survey, shared with the blockchain academic community via organizations like MouseBelt University and the Blockchain Education Network (BEN). CoinDesk has helpfully published a detailed overview of the methodology used.

Blockchain University Rankings

The top-20 U.S. universities were announced during a special CoinDesk Live episode, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) taking the top spot ahead of Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley.

The top-20 universities for blockchain as ranked by CoinDesk
Left: The top-20 U.S. universities for blockchain as ranked by CoinDesk. Right: Re-ordering the top-20 U.S. universities based solely on the Campus Blockchain Offerings category, with the change in position highlighted.

Re-ordering the top-20 U.S. universities based solely on the Campus Blockchain Offerings category (which makes up 40% of the overall score) brings about some interesting changes. Cornell University leapfrogs MIT to first place, in part due to offering the highest number of blockchain courses. The University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Michigan all gain significantly. Conversely, Harvard University drops ten places, its overall ranking bolstered by an extremely high score for Employment and Industry Outcomes; partly due to having the highest percentage of its student body placing into blockchain industry.

Comparison with Coinbase’s Rankings

CoinDesk’s rankings are likely the most comprehensive and significant produced since August 2019, when the digital currency exchange Coinbase published its 2019 Leaders in Crypto Education rankings. The main difference in scope is that Coinbase considered the entire top-50 of the U.S. News and World Report Best Global Universities, rather than just the U.S. universities.

The conclusions are similar, however, with Cornell University and MIT taking the top two spots in both rankings. The University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, Columbia University, and New York University also make the top-10 in both lists. However, these similarities are not overly surprising, given the sample size in both studies was limited to schools in the top-30/50 world university rankings.

The top-10 universities for blockchain as ranked by CoinDesk and Coinbase
The top-10 universities for blockchain as ranked by CoinDesk (2020) and Coinbase (2019).

Future Efforts

Creating university rankings is challenging and subjective, particularly in such a new field. CoinDesk’s goal was “to create the most nuanced, rigorous and defensible blockchain university rankings to date.” The rankings are a positive contribution, with the methodology building upon the previous efforts of Coinbase, particularly with the introduction of the Employment and Industry Outcomes category.

The qualitative survey provides some interesting insights, with MIT having the highest reputation among academics and the University of California, Berkley the highest among industry.

As with the Coinbase rankings, the greatest limitation comes from the limited scope. In reality, the research answers the question: ‘Of the top-ranked U.S. universities, which are the best for blockchain?‘ rather than: ‘What are the best universities in the world for blockchain?

Limiting the scope to universities appearing in the top-30 of the world rankings prohibited many universities which have made significant contributions to blockchain from being considered, such as Fordham University, Portland State University, and the University of California, Irvine. The absence of non-U.S. universities is also notable, although many of the leading blockchain schools would also not have been considered (as outside the top-30 world rankings), such as the University of Nicosia and University of Malta.

CoinDesk acknowledges the limited scope of the rankings – “something we will improve upon and expand in future years.” The good news is that CoinDesk has indicated it will be repeating the study in 2021 and is working “to expand our research to cover more schools both in the U.S. and globally.”

CoinDesk also looks set to increase its coverage of blockchain and higher education through its 2020 university package.

The results of the 2020 Blockchain University Rankings were released during a special CoinDesk Live episode.

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