Gabriel Scheare uses world's first bitcoin ATM
Cyprus' largest private university said Thursday it has become the first in the world to accept increasingly popular digital currency bitcoin for the payment of tuition and other fees. The University of Nicosia said it was also launching the first Master
of Science Degree in Digital Currency in 2014, designed to help people better understand the technical underpinnings of digital currency.
Cyprus is suffering from the terms of a 10 billion-euro ($13.5 billion) bailout negotiated in March which saw its second largest bank wound down and depositors take a 47.5 percent haircut on uninsured deposits of over 100,000 in its largest lender.
Since then the government has imposed capital controls ?- the only eurozone member to do so.
The University of Nicosia said it was the first accredited university to accept payments with bitcoins, which can be exchanged online for real money or used to buy goods and services on the Internet.
"We are acutely aware that 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," said the university's chief financial officer Christos Vlachos.
He said that digital currency would create more efficient services and serve as a mechanism for spreading financial services to under-banked regions of the world.
"We consider it appropriate that we implement digital currency as a method of payment across all our institutions in all cities and countries of our operations," Vlachos said in a statement.
The new masters programme would be offered both online and on-campus to students worldwide.
"While digital currency is a relatively new concept, currency is one of the oldest human inventions," said Dr Andreas Polemitis, the university?s senior vice rector.
"What we aim to explore in this programme is the likely development pathway of digital currency and give our students insights that they can bring to bear in their professional careers."
The university is proposes the government and other stakeholders initiate a comprehensive framework for developing Cyprus into a hub for Bitcoin trading, processing and banking.
The use of bitcoins, which were launched in 2009, is as yet unregulated by any government in the world.
The University of Nicosia said it was proposing to the Cypriot government and relevant stakeholders a plan to turn the Mediterranean island into a "hub for bitcoin trading, processing and banking".