Can only a law professor teach about smart contracts? Universities have faced several challenges with adding crypto classes to their curriculum such as a scarcity of knowledgeable lecturers and an ecosystem that develops much faster than they can reprint books. Now they also have to worry about different departments bickering over control of the multifaceted subject.
Academic Tug of War Over Crypto Classes
Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain classes are all the rage at academic institutions around the world, from Chicago to Brazil and even North Korea. In fact, they are now in such high demand that academics fear they might lead to a turf war between computer science, economics, law, accounting, finance departments and business schools.
Garrick Hileman, who lectured about cryptocurrencies as part of a master of finance course at the University of Cambridge, told the Financial Times that: “It wouldn’t surprise me to see some turf wars break out over who owns the blockchain curriculum at business schools.”
David Yermack, professor of finance at New York University Stern School of Business, started teaching about Bitcoin to MBA students back in 2014. He explains that: “It’s interdisciplinary. The computer science and finance industries have merged and this needs to happen in universities too. But universities are bureaucratic — it will be political and take time.”
Demand From Students, Finance and Tech Companies
The reasons for the strong demand for blockchain courses include of course the great price rally of 2017, but also the new avenues opened up by smart contracts and ICOs. “The increase in value in the cryptos played a large part in the increase in public interest,” explained Jens Martin, a director at University of Amsterdam Business School. “However, we feel that the finance industry is very interested in the technology itself and the possibilities it offers. We see many applications not only from people with a banking background, but a more diverse group who are interested in applying these concepts to finance.”
Robert Wardrop, director of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance at the Judge Business School, said that demand for teaching crypto skills is mainly coming from tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. “The core focus of interest is growing from non-financial firms.” These “are essential to related projects that these businesses are working on. Understanding issues like asset tokenisation is quite fundamental . . . in terms of your business model but also to your capital raising,” he added.
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