How blockchain can help build trust in the education sector

05 December 2019

by Samar Singh Global Blockchain Driver, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)77 1156 2368

by Chris Clements Senior Development Manager, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7843 332946

Educational institutions have come some distance in their pursuit of becoming more digital, but most would acknowledge there is some way to go. An example of this would be the issuing, verification and sharing of educational qualifications and professional certifications which is still a largely centralised, manual and paper-based process. It’s time-consuming, inefficient and open to abuse and fraud.

Why it’s time to rethink the credentials process

The revocation of paper certificates is one significant issue – people can still hang a paper certificate for a revoked qualification on the wall or present it to potential employers. Quality control is another issue. If a university has affiliates in other countries, for example, there is a lack of control over the issuing process and the authenticity of the certificate.

The issuing process for certificates and qualifications is manual and time consuming for institutions. Similarly, verifying a paper certificate has many of the same challenges too. And for an organisation wanting to check someone’s qualification, the process involves intermediaries and a range of third parties for attestation, verification and to act as custodians of the credential. It is time-consuming and costs an average of £12 per verification, according to Crowe UK. The laborious process also means only 5-10% of credentials are actually verified.

There is a significant cost associated with credentials fraud today:

Meanwhile, the student or person who has received the qualification wants control and independence over how they use, share and revoke access to that credential in future.

In today’s digital, app-driven world people also want access to their data immediately at anytime or anywhere.

How blockchain creates secure and trusted credentials

Blockchain has the potential to transform this process for the education sector. That’s why we have developed Smart Credentials, a blockchain platform that allows a person’s qualifications and credentials to be securely issued, verified and shared digitally, instead of having to rely on paper-based versions. The platform also has the ability to include both formal and non - formal achievements so that an individual’s lifelong achievements are at hand in a trusted, secure and portable way. It drives a culture of authenticity and accountability outwards and auditability inwards.

Blockchain brings certain inherent advantages of immutability lined with security, resilience and irreversibility, helping to replace any middlemen or agencies which increase trust and provide a single source of the truth.

The future that blockchain promises in the issuance process is the end of the line for paper certifications. It also means moving beyond digital certificates, which don’t address the challenge of disintermediation and the need for third parties in the process.

Today, blockchain for credentials is predominantly about enabling educational institutions to issue them in permanence. This brings quality and trust into the process, particularly in the example of institutions with affiliates or accreditations overseas. Institutions can be confident they are issuing a genuine certificate, which is authenticated and instantly verifiable. And that also brings cost reductions through improved efficiency and it helps eliminate fraud.

Blockchain in action today

We are already working with institutions today using this technology. A pilot project in one of our own country offices enables employees who come out from the university there to be issued their smart credentials in permanence using the Smart Credentials platform.

We have also partnered with one leading university, which is already issuing digital credentials to its entire student population. With Smart Credentials we are enabling a wallet capability and personalisation for the students. This gives them the ability to control and share their credentials through the wallet – for both formal qualifications and non-formal credentials such as vocational or sports certificates and even birth certificates.

The future of blockchain and credentials via tokenisation

Beyond today’s use cases of issuing credentials in permanence, the future of blockchain and our Smart Credentials platform in the education sector will explore areas of automatic recognition and attribution or transfer of credits, verifying accreditors, lifelong records of learning, student grants and funding and also leveraging sovereign identities for verifying students and even educators.

Tokenisation of educational credentials over blockchain will bring to life some of these use cases. Although it's still a long way off in terms of maturity of the technology and it’s adoption. We believe there are also many other opportunities for organisations to exploit blockchain around credentialization in various industry sectors like aviation, healthcare, government departments and registries, HR and supply chain. And this is just the beginning.

Get in touch to find out how our Smart Credentials blockchain platform could help your organisation.

Our Blockchain team have been nominated in this year’s Reimagine Education Awards in London, demonstrating how blockchain can transform the future of education. Winners will be announced later this month.

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by Samar Singh Global Blockchain Driver, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)77 1156 2368

by Chris Clements Senior Development Manager, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7843 332946