The Bitcoin craze has made its way to the educational system.
The University of Nicosia in Cyprus announced today that it will allow students to pay for tuition fees with Bitcoin, becoming the first accredited university in the world to do so. Starting this spring, Bitcoin will be accepted throughout the entire University of Nicosia system, which includes online programs and affiliated schools.
UNic, formerly known as Intercollege, is the largest private university in Cyprus and has about 5,000 students. Those who wish to use Bitcoin for tuition fees can pay at the university’s finance office or through an online merchant processing service.
If you haven’t heard of Bitcoin, it’s the emerging decentralized, virtual currency gaining popularity lately in light of the FBI shutting down Silk Road, the online marketplace for illegal drugs and illicit services. Bitcoins exist only online, can be transferred right away and are not controlled by a central authority like the Federal Reserve.
Bitcoin made headlines earlier this week after the U.S. government began discussions about the digital currency, and shortly thereafter its value went on an insane rollercoaster. Here in Seattle, a Seattle grilled cheese foodtruck is now accepting Bitcoin and 200 miles north, the world’s first Bitcoin ATM was just installed in Vancouver, B.C.
This is an interesting move on UNic’s part to accept Bitcoin — after all, the volatility of the currency is at an all-time high right now. But a university spokesperson told GeekWire that it plans on converting students’ Bitcoin immediately to Euros.
“The intention of this initiative is to ease transmission difficulties for certain students and to build our own practical knowledge about this field, not to engage in currency speculation,” the spokesperson said.
UNic expects that initial Bitcoin adoption will come from students in Africa enrolled in online degree programs.
“In certain countries, international payments are extremely cumbersome and given that certain students pay on a monthly installment plan, the transmission fees end up reaching 5-to-10 percent of their payments and being highly inconvenient,” the spokesperson said. “Furthermore, there are examples of non-traditional digital currencies in Africa, such as m-Pesa in Kenya that have reached wide adoption.”
In a statement, UNic Chief Financial Officer Dr. Christos Vlachos called digital currency “an inevitable technical development that will lead to significant innovation in online commerce, financial systems, international payments and remittances and global economic development.”
Not only is the university accepting Bitcoin as payment, but it is also launching the first Master of Science Degree in Digital Currency this spring. Introduction to Digital Currency, the degree’s first class, will be available for free to anyone as a massive open online course.
“What we aim to explore in this program is the likely development pathway of digital currency and give our students insights that they can bring to bear in their professional careers,” UNic Senior Vice Rector Dr. Andreas Polemitis said in a statement.
UNic also plans on lobbying the Cyprus government to turn the country into a “hub for Bitcoin trading, processing and banking.”