Article By Gina Clarke
No introduction to University would be complete without a walk around Freshers’ Fair. Whether you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast, a politician in the making or just interested in finding new friends, there’s often a club for you.
And now, news reveals that many UK universities have a blockchain society that offers allegiances with many cutting-edge technology firms for talks, apprenticeships and more.
It’s no surprise really, as Blockchain technology has been growing in popularity and students are well-known for being at the forefront of IT. I remember having a Facebook for uni account well before it entered the mainstream.
But now it looks like the ‘generation z’ students are taking a particular interest in the technology as an extracurricular. Research has shown that one in four of the UK’s top universities now has a blockchain society for students from any background to join. Whether joining to explore potential financial benefits from using blockchain technology personally, or to gain knowledge and skills that will be transferable to the workplace, there certainly seems to be growing interest in the technology as a whole.
Particularly prevalent in top 50 universities
Blockchain societies are present at some of the UK’s top universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Leeds, Bristol, and Aberdeen. Organizations seem to see an uptake in interest in 2017, which probably had something to do with cryptocurrency Bitcoin reaching its dizzy heights, and student interest in the concept is growing.
A quarter of top universities in the UK now have a blockchain society or club for students to join according to research carried out by Discount Displays. The study went through universities included in the Complete University Guide Top 50 for 2018 and identified 12 blockchain clubs.
It is not yet clear whether these clubs will have enough uptake in interest to stand the test of time, but current students are certainly expressing interest in learning more about blockchain.
Owen Burek, founder and editor of popular student website Save The Student, suggests the growing popularity of blockchain groups amongst university students is no surprise:
“Blockchain’s promise could lead to the next big economic revolution, though potential applications are still in their infancy. Students are inherently forward-thinking while being incredibly quick to adopt new technologies. So it’s of little surprise to me that there is a growing trend in university societies and groups forming around blockchain.
“Aside from the social benefits, such groups are brilliant at developing new skills and interests, while bolstering future career opportunities.”
University societies continue to diversify
Of course, societies have always been a little on the fringe at any university campus, the survey also found a high instance of Harry Potter societies (21 in total), Doctor Who societies (13 in total), beer societies (14 in total) and one society dedicated entirely to the music of Beyonce.
So why the rise in blockchain? Well, the interest can be attributed to a few factors, including the general growth in the sector, students’ skepticism towards traditional financial institutions and their desire to have a career outside of traditional sectors.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency, in particular, offers students hopes of financial stability outside of traditional sectors as well as the opportunity to work for new, forward-thinking companies.
Students who grew up through the economic crisis
Blockchain expert Mary Middlemiss believes the spike in interest could come down to students’ skepticism of the current banking system. Many of today’s students will have grown up throughout the financial crisis and will have seen first-hand the pitfalls of current systems. The promise of a new more sustainable financial system could be really attractive to that market.
She said: “Cryptocurrencies have a huge appeal to a generation which came of age the wrong side of the economic crisis, and are facing a future of great financial uncertainty. Careers in blockchain are of great interest to those technically minded, but other opportunities are emerging too, as the explosion of startups begins to settle down to a smaller number of sustainable businesses – which will need a diverse range of skills.”
She went on to say “for students who are about to graduate into a world where they are, by all accounts, likely to be worse off than their parents on every level, crypto represents hope. Their financial security is never going to come from traditional career paths or owning property, and they have less trust in banks and institutions than their parents did.”
The draw of being able to make money, be it through employment within the sector or personal trading, will likely be a significant factor for students. Whether they are viewing their participation in such societies as a way to benefit in the short term or if they are hoping to gain the skills required for a career within the sector is yet to be seen.
The trend has been accompanied by a number of universities offering both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees explicitly tailored for those who are looking to pursue a career in blockchain technology or cryptocurrency.
Perhaps the next big thing in blockchain or cryptocurrency will come directly from a university society, who knows?