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The University of Cumbria has become the first public institution of its kind to accept its fees in bitcoins – at least, for two courses that specifically deal with currency innovation.
Located in England’s scenic Lake District, the university counts among its many courses a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership and a Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange, both offered through its recently-established Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS). For these two courses, it is trialling payment by Bitcoin, via a transaction service such as Bitpay.
A private university in Nicosia, Cyprus, has already said it will accept Bitcoin for everything from course fees to cafeteria meals, but the University of Cumbria is a public institution. According to Professor Jim Bendell, who heads up IFLAS and helped organize a United Nations symposium on crypto-currencies last year, the university is experimenting with Bitcoin because it believes in “learning by doing:”
“… To help inform our courses on complementary currencies, we are trialling the acceptance of them. The internal discussions about currency and payment innovation and the practical implications for different departments have been insightful.
“Some support Bitcoin due to its speed and cost, others due the new era of financial freedom it could enable. Others are concerned about it and how it will affect economies and society. Others think that what comes next will be even more important. We think it is essential to become better informed, and analyse it from many different perspectives.”
The postgraduate certificate course costs £3,333 ($5,479) and the certificate course, which can form part of the former, £1,111. In today’s Bitcoin terms, at $960 to the bitcoin, that’s 5.7 and 1.9 bitcoins respectively – not bad for a proper qualification.
While I’m still deeply skeptical about Bitcoin, it’s certainly an interesting topic for study and accepting the crypto-currency is a smart move on the university’s part. If nothing else, it acts as highly relevant marketing for the courses, and will no doubt help attract the right sort of student.