The academic crypto boom: which universities are leading the way in cryptocurrency education?

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Dan Howitt
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Cryptocurrency has sparked significant transformation in established financial systems and global markets, with a recent boom of crypto-adoption in the UK’s academic sector standing out as a milestone in the digital field.

The surging popularity of cryptocurrencies, the increased dependency of blockchain in various sectors and the growth prospects in the blockchain industry all contribute to a higher demand for people skilled in blockchain and crypto.

A study by King's College London (2021) found the UK provided almost a quarter of all job adverts in the crypto and blockchain industry, although is home to fewer than 7% of all blockchain and crypto firms worldwide; accentuating the demand for a UK workforce skilled in the digital field.

In this ever-changing digital landscape, British academia is being reformed with universities entering a new era of cryptocurrency adoption, to help students refine the skills that will help them succeed in a career influenced by digital currencies and blockchain technologies; by offering crypto-related courses, societies and state of the art research centres for students.

But which universities are likely to lead the way in digital currency adoption, to become a hub for crypto-academia and future prospects?

At Recap, our expert researchers have examined five key data points determining crypto-adoption of universities and colleges across the UK.

This includes:
● Number of crypto-related courses.
● Number of crypto-related short courses.
● Number of apprenticeships offered.
● Number of crypto / blockchain / fintech societies or clubs.
● Number of specialist crypto / blockchain research centres.

See below for the UK universities leading the way in crypto-adoption:

An infographic showing the top ten universities leading the way as crypto education providers according to Recap's study.

In 2023, cryptocurrency adoption extended to countries worldwide, with London emerging as the world’s leading crypto hub in our recent study. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a university in the aforementioned crypto hub, University College London (UCL), has emerged as the UK’s leading provider of cryptocurrency education.

The esteemed Russell Group university is ahead of the curve in cryptocurrency adoption, offering 16 crypto related full-time courses and four short courses for undergraduates and postgraduates, in addition to a state of the art Centre for Blockchain Technologies. Students looking to learn more about crypto also have the option to join the universities Blockchain Labs Society or FinTech society.

Additionally, out of all the cities, London was home to the highest number of crypto specific research centres, helping to attract and enhance talent in the crypto landscape.

The University of Edinburgh comes in second place as it pushes to become the leading university for blockchain, following the launch of their first blockchain and AI accelerator programme in 2018 attracting start-ups and entrepreneurs nationwide.

With its rich heritage in computer science, Edinburgh university is an appealing place to study for students interested in the digital landscape - offering 17 undergraduate and postgraduate courses influenced by crypto, in addition to their own specialist Blockchain Technology Laboratory.

In what may be to the delight of Swansea County Councillor, Cllr Will Thomas, who thinks “Wales should be like El Salvador and embrace Bitcoin”, Swansea University took third place - with the third highest number of crypto related courses offered at 16, in addition to a specialist Blockchain Lab.

Coming fourth is another hub for crypto related academia, Reading University, also offering 16 undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

After their city made headlines in 2018 for being home to a cocktail bar accepting cryptocurrency for the first time, the University of Kent came in fifth place, highlighting how mainstream the currency has become in the area. The University has a thriving crypto education programme, offering 15 courses influenced by crypto for its students to choose from.

An alluring hub for crypto sector prospects, the University of London comes in sixth place offering 11 short-courses on blockchain programming and building trading platforms.

King's College London, the University of Sussex, Birmingham City University and the University of Liverpool complete the top ten due to a high number of crypto-related course offerings. King's College London and the University of Sussex also both provide students with the opportunity to join a society relating to the field.

In the South, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and Imperial College London have all become established crypto research hubs, with each of their specialist centres contributing research into blockchain and related technologies to create a securer, fairer and more transparent decentralised society.

In 2014, the University of Cumbria was the first public university in the world that started accepting tuition fee payments via Bitcoin, arguably where the academic crypto boom began. Today, more than 50% of UK universities offer at least one course relating to crypto, 29% with their own specialist crypto research centre.

Universities across the UK are in a race to be the most advanced in the digital landscape, with London universities currently taking the lead with three top ten spots. However, with increasing R&D in the field adding fuel to the academic crypto boom, the top providers of crypto higher education are something to keep an eye on in future.

As the industry becomes more regulated, especially in terms of crypto tax, there needs to be an emphasis by education institutions to include cryptocurrency in modules in relevant courses - whether this be accounting, fintech or blockchain-specific courses.

For this study, our researchers analysed data from all higher education establishments across the UK, and compared them against 5 relevant index points to find which universities are leading the way as crypto-education providers. The data points included:

  • The number of full-time and short-term crypto-related courses offered for undergraduates and postgraduates, in addition to crypto-related apprenticeships: Crypto-related courses and apprenticeships we those mentioning the keywords “Crypto”, “Blockchain”, “Web3”, “Bitcoin” or “FinTech” within the title or specifications.
  • The number of crypto-related clubs or societies available for students: A crypto-related club or society is one that mentions the keywords “Crypto”, “Blockchain”, “Web3”, “Bitcoin” or “FinTech” in the name.
  • The number of crypto-specific research centres as part of the University: A crypto-specific research centre is one that mentions the keywords “Crypto”, “Blockchain”, “Web3”, “Bitcoin” or “FinTech” in the title or key research area description. Universities with a crypto-specific research centre were given an extra weight in the index.

Once the data had been collected, a tally score was given to each university in each data set. Following this, an index score was given to each university based on the combined total tally of each data set, those with a higher tally ranking higher in the index for crypto-readiness ranging from scores of 100 to 0. E.g. The universities with no crypt-related course, club or research centre ranked last and received a lower score out of 100; whereas those with the highest amount of these desirable offerings ranked on top with a higher score; Universities with the highest index figure being most crypto-ready, and vice versa.

Recap Index: Which universities are leading the way in cryptocurrency education?

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