The University of Nicosia (UNic) in Cyprus is the first educational institution worldwide to accept tuition fees payment in bitcoins.
Speaking exclusively in euronews, Christos Vlachos, CFO of UNic said transactions in bitcoins will be available for students from November 22, 2013.
Bitcoin-mania has been expanding during the last months. On October 30th, outside a cafe in Vancouver, the world’s first virtual ATM can swap your bitcoins.
Bitcoins provide a safe, quick and convenient way for students attending online university courses to pay their tuitions fees, according to Vlachos.
Euronews interviewed Vlachos about the new use of bitcoins and the future of the e-currency market.
Euronews: How did you come up with the idea of getting tuitions paid with bitcoins?
Christos Vlachos: UNic is a rather multifaceted organisation. Three years ago, in collaboration with the Saint George University of London, we launched the first medical school in Cyprus. Simultaneously, the global training programmes of UNic offered training for investment bankers and accountants in various campuses in Cyprus, Greece and Romania. Finally, UNic offers online education programmes around the world. We have over 2,000 registered students from Europe, Africa and Asia. Lately, several students, especially from countries where the population either do not have easy access to banks, for example in Kenya, or traditional banking is highly expensive, asked us if they could pay in bitcoins. We searched information about the electronic currency and found it has quite a few advantages.
Euronews: What are those advantages?
Christos Vlachos: First, it is much faster than traditional bank transactions. For example, in Africa, there are countries where it can take up to weeks for a bank to transfer money. With bitcoins, it is just a matter of seconds. Second, the transaction is cheaper. Actually, it costs nothing. Third, it is easier because the process can be done on a 24-hours-per-day, seven-days-a-week basis. Fourth, it is convenient for the user because he can send bitcoins using his laptop, his mobile or his tablet. Fifth, instead of going to the bank and wait in the queue, the transaction takes place peer to peer. Sixth, it is safer to pay in bitcoins than register your bank account and credit card number in any other webpage.
Euronews: Bitcoin’s exchange value is high at this time. Do you intend to exchange your future bitcoin income from tuitions fees to euros or keep them?
Christos Vlachos: UNic as an educational organisation has no intension of gambling with the market price of bitcoins. When we receive a tuition fee payment in bitcoins, we will exchange the electronic currency into euros right away. We offer this king of payment as an extra service to our online students so that they can pay their tuition fees faster and safer.
Euronews: When is the new method of tuitions fees payment launched?
Christos Vlachos: We will be ready to accept payment in bitcoins from November 22, 2013. Roght now, we are having our final tests to make sure that all transactions that will take place are 100% safe. We received our first requests for payments via bitcoins several months ago. Students, mainly from Africa and Asia and some from Greece, asked us if they can pay their tuition fees in bitcoins.
Euronews: Apart from the introduction of this new and rather innovative way of fees’ payment, you plan to launch a Master of Science Degree in Digital Currency. Would you care to share some information about this programme?
Christos Vlachos: Definitely. During the period that we studied thoroughly the possibility of getting paid in bitcoins, we actually realized that electronic currency might be the beginning of a new era, a life-changing instrument.
Euronews: Do you suggest that electronic currency could change everyday life as we know it?
Christos Vlachos: Actually, yes. The bitcoin phenomenon can create a great need for training so that ordinary people, entrepreneurs, local authorities as well as the state itself can deal with the electronic currency. This brand new market will have a tremendous impact economically and socially. For this reason, we decided to create a Master of Science Degree in Digital Currency which will be launched in spring 2014.
We hope that our initiative will eventually evolve into a broader effort under the auspices of the state, so that we could create an entire economic industry around bitcoins. During the seventies, Cyprus became a centre for offshore companies. Now, our goal is to create the appropriate legal framework and background basis, so that in the next decade the bitcoin industry can blossom in Cyprus soil.
Today, the most common way for someone to get his hands on bitcoins – except of course mining then which is to complex and requires the use of supercomputers – is to purchase them from special online stock exchanges. However, these online exchange centres are not subject to any control by any authority or financial market. People that trade with these online markets take are willing to take the risk. In fact, there were cases where online bitcoin exchange markets closed all of the sudden and people ended up losing their electronic money.
For that, we suggest that the Republic of Cyprus or the Cypriot Stock Exchange should offer a platform as well as the necessary safeguards, setting out all the relative laws and regulations for the transactions of bitcoins. In such a case, you can easily imagine the size of foreign exchange that will flow into the Cypriot economy as well as the thousands of jobs that will be created over the next years.