By Dayo Adesulu
MANY universities across the US, Russia, UK and Europe have added new courses to their existing finance curricula that are focused on cryptocurrencies, bitcoin, and blockchain technology. Cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a bridge to secure financial transactions and a decentralized way for users to directly transact business online.
Blockchain on the other hand is the technology that powers cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin which is gradually gaining mainstream attention, as more prominent universities are adding it to their course lists. Presently, the universities that offer the blockchain courses globally include: New York University, Duke University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley and Blockchain University all in USA.
In the UK, they are University of Cumbria, and B9 Lab Academy. In Europe, you have IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Cyprus University of Nicosia, while in Russia, the Moscow State University, Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg State University of Economics, National University of Science and Technology and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. University of Edinburgh also plans to become one of the first major European universities to launch a Blockchain course.
The importance of these courses to Nigerians is that the world is gradually moving away from tangible currency to digital currency. Thus world over, we have 29 cryptocurrencies which are heavily patronized during business transactions. The major reason for these new courses, according to experts, was due to the increasing demand of cryptocurrencies from various sectors globally.
Though we have about 29 Cryptocurrencies, the most patronized with huge capital base are Bitcoin, Ethereum and Bitcash. It might interest you to note that 1 Bitcoin equals $4050 and 1 Bitcoin equals N1,425,777.50. The irony of this development is that central banks of the countries where these digital currencies are operational have no control over them. The appreciation of the digital currencies is determined by a natural force.
Experts say the demand for Blockchain expertise is coming from all sectors like financial services and retail, and it is far outstripping supply. According to IBM’s Vice- President of Blockchain Technologies, Jerry Cuomo, the best Blockchain engineer can earn a salary above $250,000. Also, Michael Mainelli, who runs Blockchain training courses for senior executives at his consultancy, Z/Yen said: “It is a hot market at the moment because most of the large corporates want to be able to say they have a Blockchain team.
It is on the high side of what a really talented consultant or software engineer can earn. Demand is exceeding supply, so we are seeing shortages. It is up there with the cloud and artificial intelligence as a really hot area. This technology is not that complicated,” he adds. “If you are a coder who knows about cryptography then it is pretty simple.”
Moreover, Aggelos Kiayias, Chair in Cybersecurity and Privacy, Director of the Blockchain Technology Laboratory at Edinburgh University said: “Blockchain technology is a recent development and there is always a bit of a lag as academia catches up. You can learn an incredible amount about cyber security just by studying the Blockchain.” Also a distributed ledger, there are other benefits in studying the technology, as well as learning the skills needed to build a Blockchain.”
Many people who listed Blockchain as a skill on the site are based in the US, followed by UK, France, India, Germany and the Netherlands. Aside from that, almost a quarter of them listed Bitcoin as their skill, while 16 per cent added Python, which is a programming language and nine per cent added cryptocurrencies as their skill. Where is Nigeria in this trend? Besides, Bill Gates, America’s richest man threw his weight behind cryptocurrency and digital currency in general during the Sibos 2014 financial-services industry conference in Boston, US.
During his interview with Bloomberg TV’s Smart Street show, Bill Gates posited: “Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically present in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient.” In his keynote address, he reiterated his perspective that in the future, financial transactions will eventually “be digital, universal and almost free. If Bill Gates is backing cryptocurrency as a digital payments solution… you know where the future is headed!”
Speaking in respect of Caleb University, Imota, Lagos, its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ayandiji Daniel Aina explained why cryptocurrency could not be run in Nigerian universities as a course. He said that every university in Nigeria operates under the regulatory authority of the National Universities Commission (NUC) with the Academic Brief and the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) documents as useful guide.
According to him, the Academic Brief is a document detailing a university course offering in a five-year phased period, while the BMAS is the document to accredit all approved courses. He said: “To float Cryptocurrency as a course, the NUC will be required to develop a BMAS for it as a course.
This is currently not in existence. At best, what any university can do is to teach or continue to teach Cryptocurrency as part of the relevant umbrella courses – Accounting, Banking and Finance. Caleb University falls within this milleu. Cryptocurrency will have to be reworked into our Academic Brief but this is only possible if a BMAS is developed by the NUC.”
In his contribution, NUC’s former Executive Secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola said: “I am glad to confirm that my quick survey of 11 departments of economics and departments of accounting showed that in the last three years, undergraduate and postgraduate students have been taught virtual currencies as part of modern developments in global financing and accounting.
The universities surveyed are Ibadan, Lagos, LASU, Crawford, ABU, Usmanu Dan Fodiyo, NOUN, Covenant, Ekiti State University, Nsukka and Sokoto State University. Although not specifically provisioned in the BMAS, the lecturers in these universities have been current enough to teach students the birth of and recent developments in cryptocurrency.
“My survey showed that students are taught under International Economics (a 300-level compulsory course). Issues such as the development of the market of cryptocurrencies, indices which keep track of notable cryptocurrencies and their cumulative market value and fraud in the use of cryptocurrencies are mentioned. We need to recall that at the time the NUC BMAS was published in 2007 and revised in 2011, the concept of cryptocurrency was just beginning to emerge in the public domain.
Massive review of the curricula
“I am aware that the new Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, has ordered a massive review of the curricula of Nigerian universities which will be significantly updated to include contemporary topics and disciplines. For sure, cryptocurrency will not miss the eyes of the reviewers. What is worth stressing is that there is absolutely no way by which any curriculum can accommodate or envisage future growth in knowledge, hence, implementers are encouraged to seek latest developments in the field and be free to incorporate these in the minimum standards.
“On a concluding note, we should ensure dynamism not only in the curricula of our universities but of the entire education sector. The secondary school curriculum in economics should also be updated to include the use, advantages and disadvantages of cryptocurrencies. There should also be public awareness campaigns on the merits and demerits of cryptocurrencies with the Central Bank of Nigeria supporting such public awareness.”