The University of Nicosia has become the first accredited university to let students pay tuition and fees with Bitcoins. This decisions is part of a larger initiative to turn the university into a hub for Bitcoin research, starting with a Master of Science in Digital Currency degree to be offered in spring 2014.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is here to stay, bets Nicosia

“Digital currency is an inevitable technical development that will lead to significant innovation in online commerce, financial systems, international payments and remittances and global economic development,” Dr. Christos Vlachos, member of the Council of the University of Nicosia, and the university’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “Our world class business, accounting and computer science departments have partnered to create an interdisciplinary major to prepare people for these revolutionary changes. In this light, we consider it appropriate that we implement digital currency as a method of payment.”

The university will also offer the first class in the degree path, Introduction to Digital Currency, as a free MOOC (massive open online course) for anyone who wants to learn more about how Bitcoin works.

Risky venture could pay off in the long run

Smaller universities often try to excel in less common research areas as a way to differentiate themselves, and it seems like that is what the University of Nicosia is doing here. Of course it makes sense for them to put their money where their mouth is, and accept the digital currency they are going to be researching, but the decision isn’t without risks. In just the last week Bitcoin has been discussed in front of the US Senate, hit new highs, and shown that it can drop like a stone almost without notice. All currencies fluctuate, and universities with large cash holdings probably have someone who understands the risks involved, but if the University of Nicosia decides that it is going to hold on to Bitcoins in large numbers it may need to have someone on hand to actively manage the account.

Students thinking about studying digital currencies are also taking something of a risk. If Bitcoin doesn’t pan out they could find themselves with the equivalent of a master’s degree in VCR repair. But if it does, such specialized knowledge might be in high demand.