A prestigious Berlin-based business school, ESMT, recently announced that they are accepting bitcoin for tuition payments, making it the first German institute of higher education to do so. Students attending undergraduate programs and executive business school programs can now pay for tuition using the cryptographically secured currency.
“Integrating bitcoin as a routine method of payment is a logical consequence of digitalization. Especially for international transactions from countries without a well-functioning banking system, the digital currency offers great advantages through the immediate, practically free-of-charge transfer. This makes bitcoins attractive to us as a means of accepted payment.”
- Georg Garlichs, ESMT CFO
Berlin-based ESMT was founded in 2002 by a diverse group of 25 German multinational corporations and institutions, including BMW, Bosch, SAP, Siemens, Lufthansa and Daimler. The school offers degree programs for full-time and executive MBAs, as well as open enrollment and customized education programs up to and including their full PhD program.
Christoph Burger, a senior associate dean for the ESMT executive education program is also the university’s “blockchain expert,” according to the school’s announcement, and will be lecturing on the subject of bitcoin at ESMT. The professor has written about bitcoin and blockchains, often when paired with decentralized energy markets, including "The Decentralized Energy Revolution – Business Strategies for a New Paradigm.”
Earlier this year, Burger wrote an academic paper proposing that Blockchains are the “transaction solution” for decentralized electricity markets. An Australian energy startup called Power Ledger, now allows residents and businesses in Perth to trade energy, which is typically generated locally from solar panels.
Burger teaches the importance of blockchains while noting that “cryptographic encryption also makes counterfeiting more difficult.” Tracking counterfeit luxuries, food, art, diamonds, and other merchandise is often the the subject of supply chain startups, each using a blockchain and encryption in order to track goods from source to consumer. However, according to the academic, bitcoin is “the most well-developed blockchain application.”
“In addition to reducing transaction costs and providing P2P marketplaces, blockchain also facilitates individual marketing of personal data. This is a feature that offers the data owner an improved position when negotiating with the users of data, especially in the age of big data.”
- Christoph Burger
Only seven other universities accept bitcoin. The first was Draper University in June 2013, although it’s not a four-year university and is described as a trade school for entrepreneurs. Cyprus’ University of Nicosia started accepting bitcoin five months later, and is an accredited four-year school.
The University quickly started offering what it calls the world’s first “Master of Science Degree in Digital Currency.” The institution uses Bitpay to reduce volatility, while offering an online MOOC, “Introduction to Digital Currencies,” which anyone can take online for free.
The sprawling University of Cumbria followed a few months later, making it the first British University to accept bitcoin. While also using Bitpay to reduce their volatility, the diverse school has seven different campuses across the UK, including one in London.
Manhattan’s King’s College NY, a private, Christian, liberal arts school located just a short walk from Wall Street, began accepting bitcoin in June 2014. Instead of using Bitpay, the 78-year-old college uses startup CoinCo to process their payments.
The Australian Flinders University became the first in the land down under to accept bitcoin for courses the following October, although only for their “Venture Dorm” 12-week entrepreneurial course, and a series of events on entrepreneurialism.
“In the current education environment where Australian Universities are being turned upside down, they are looking to answer how to best stay relevant and react to market forces.”
- Matt Salier, Flinders University New Venture Institute Director
Late last year the private Brazilian Faculty of Informatics and Management Paulista, based in São Paulo, also started accepting bitcoin for select courses, and has installed a bitcoin ATM on their campus. Local bitcoin payment processor PagCoin handles both the tuition payment processing and runs the teller machine, taking a tiny one-percent fee in the process.
Prague’s Cevro Institute of Political Studies, which offers degrees in Law, Philosophy, Economics, Politics, and Security, started accepting Bitcoin for tuition in April this year. The innovative university offers a degree mixing Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in the form of their “PPE Masters Degree in Bitcoin.”
Campus bookstores and coffee shops have also adopted bitcoin payments. Both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Simon Frasier University (SFU) have bookstores that accept bitcoin, and Bitcoin ATM machines. SFU has bitcoin-accepting stores at each of their three campuses, Burnaby, Surrey, and Vancouver.
While they don’t accept bitcoin for tuition, Boston’s MIT, Duke University in North Carolina, Princeton University in New Jersey, Silicon Valley’s Stanford University, and New York University (NYU) all offer a cryptocurrency course. Stanford has published their coursework, including “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies,” and “Bitcoin Engineering Labwork” online as MOOCs, free, although they will be uncredited.
“We got into Bitcoin because we believe in the power of its technology, and we think it’s deeply connected to the rest of computer science. While we’ve highlighted how seemingly amazing new technology can struggle to displace established institutions, we believe that in the long run, people will continue to find new commercially and socially useful things to do with cryptocurrency technology.”
- Stanford’s Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies