Sep 10, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Cryptocurrency has arrived in academia, and not just as a backdoor to financial aid.

Coinbase, the San Francisco-based online platform for buying selling, transferring and digital currency, recently partnered with Qriously, one of the largest consumer research organizations in the world, to learn more about how cryptocurrency has made an impact in higher education. 

What did they find? According to the Coinbase Blog, there is a growing interest in crypto and blockchain courses.

According to the survey, 42 percent of the world's top 50 universities offer at least one course on crypto or blockchain

David Yermack, the finance department chair at New York University's Stern School of Business, witnessed enrollment in his blockchain course increase from 35 in 2014 to 230 in 2018.

He had to get a bigger auditorium.

He said he sees the class as a way to give his students the skills they will need for their future jobs.

He explained, "A process is well underway that will lead to the migration of most financial data to blockchain-based organizations. Students will benefit greatly by studying this area."

As interest rises and more universities offer courses, universities are starting to form research centers to study blockchain and cryptocurrency. The courses are not just in computer science departments, either. They are in anthropology and finance, too.

Why the interest? Blockchain can make an impact across a variety of domains. 

Coinbase interviewed Dawn Song, a computer science professor at University of California, Berkeley. She said, "Blockchain combines theory and practice and can lead to fundamental breakthroughs in many research areas." She added, "It can have really profound and broad-scale impacts on society in many different industries."

She added, "The techniques used in blockchain aren’t necessarily new, drawing on interdisciplinary subjects like cryptography, game theory, and distributed systems."

Blockchain and cryptocurrency have also landed at Stanford University, where this summer, the university launched its first Center for Blockchain Research.

Coinbase reported that Dan Boneh, professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford and co-director of the center, said, "There are new technical questions being raised by blockchain projects that we would not work on otherwise."

Other universities leading the blockchain research charge include the University of Waterloo, Georgetown University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Learn more about blockchain and cryptocurrency.


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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