National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) is to become the first higher-education institution in the nation to issue electronic diplomas with blockchain encryption, the Hsinchu-based university said yesterday.
Blockchains are to be used to encrypt the diplomas of students graduating next week, while academic records are to make use of the technology next year, NTHU said in a news release, adding that it is working with Taiwan-based tech company Turin Chain on the project.
Last year, the university’s graduates reported that many of the world’s top-tier graduate schools — including the University of Columbia — have stopped accepting hard-copy diplomas amid the pandemic, NTHU Office of Academic Affairs director Chiao Chuan-chin (焦傳金) said.
Photo courtesy of National Tsing Hua University
Moving student information to the digital realm is becoming a global standard and NTHU has found it necessary to adopt, he said.
Blockchain encrypted diplomas are permanent and can protect student privacy, prevent counterfeiting and tampering, and can be easily shared, including on digital platforms such as LinkedIn, Chiao said.
Starting on Monday next week, NTHU’s 5,000 graduate students may apply for a blockchain-based diploma for free and expect to receive it within three work days, he said,.
The electronic documents will be available in English and Chinese, he added.
Alumni who enrolled on Aug. 1, 1986, or later may also apply for blockchain-based diplomas, Chiao said.
Paper-based diplomas will continue to be issued, albeit “their usefulness in the future is likely to be diminished into wall decorations,” he said.
Blockchains use cryptology and distributed algorithmic calculations to achieve decentralization, Turin Chain cofounder and chief executive Jeff Hu (胡耀傑) said.
“Information, once coded, becomes unchangeable even to the department that authored it.” he said.
“This means trust is absolute,” he said.
Students with blockchain-based diplomas may supply a QR code or a link to prospective schools or employers, who would then be able to access relevant and authenticated certificates, he said.
Hu had first-hand experience of applying for schools in the US as an international student holding a degree in Hong Kong, he said.
He said that it was such a bother, but it inspired him to look for partners to work on blockchain-based diplomas, a technology already in use by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Turin Chain’s blockchain has been utilized at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law since 2019, he said.
Many members of the Turin Chain team are NTHU alumni, and the firm has allowed the school to use its technology as a donation, he said.
“I worry that paper diplomas could be damaged or lost, but I can save the electronic copy on [my] phone and send it to employers anywhere or to my parents,” said Chang Shan-heng (張善恆), a Malaysian student who graduated from NTHU this month.
“It is also advantageous that this diploma is acceptable to employers in Malaysia,” she added.
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