University in Cyprus Receives First Tuition Payment in Bitcoin

Nermin Hajdarbegovic
Dec 6, 2013 at 12:02 UTC
Updated Dec 14, 2013 at 11:04 UTC

The University of Nicosia has received its first tuition payment from a student using bitcoin.

Back in November, the Cypriot university announced it would accept the cryptocurrency for tuition and fee payments, becoming the world’s first accredited university to do so.

By late November the university had received a payment from Francois Rossouw, a South African student. Rossouw paid 1 BTC towards tuition for an online Master of Business Administration degree, so he could be on his way to receive the first bitcoin-funded MBA. He said:

“I am honoured to be a part of this historical occasion. Being able to pay for a world-class tertiary education with bitcoin was a dream of many, but few believed that it would become a reality so soon.”

“I am not surprised that it was the University of Nicosia, with their history of trendsetting and innovation, who took the first step. I commend them on breaking the shackles of traditional payment barriers,” Rossouw added.

Africa’s influence

Dr Christos Vlachos, member of the Council of the University of Nicosia and the University’s Chief Financial Officer, said the university expected initial adoption to come from students attending online degree programmes from countries in Africa.

“In some countries, international payments are extremely cumbersome and given that certain students pay on a monthly instalment plan, transmission fees end up reaching 5 – 10% of their payments, and are highly inconvenient,” said Vlachos. He added:

“The intention of this initiative is to ease transmission difficulties and to build our own practical knowledge about this field.”

However, accepting bitcoin tuition payments is just one part of the story. The university is also launching the first Master of Science degree programme in digital currency next spring.

It’s even more ambitious than it seems, as the university plans to bring the government on board to initiate a “comprehensive framework for developing Cyprus into a hub for bitcoin trading, processing and banking”.

Banking hub

Cyprus is already a major regional banking hub, thanks to its liberal legislative framework.

Although some term it the ‘Switzerland of the Mediterranean’, the Cypriot banking sector is not as healthy as its Swiss counterpart. Cyprus has a huge off-shore banking industry coupled with a relatively small domestic economy. The disparity indirectly precipitated the country’s financial crisis last year.

Additionally, Cyprus has a reputation as a safe haven for Eastern European oligarchs and their hard-earned savings.

Its reputation as a tax haven for wealthy Russian depositors was shaken following the 2013 EU/IMF bailout, which also resulted in a one-off levy of up to 9.9% on deposits over €100,000.

In theory, Bitcoin could help the country’s banking sector gain a competitive edge once again.

Graduation image via Shutterstock

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