Education sector set for blockchain boost

by Caitroina McCusker Education Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7764 331623

As schools across the UK reopen, the challenges facing the education sector are still unfolding. From plans to cancel GCSE and A Level exams, to extending the UCAS application process by two weeks - plans are still changing and a number of uncertainties remain. Yet despite this, the sector knows it needs to press ahead with digital and technology investment.

I’ve had a number of conversations over the last few months with universities and other organisations, and it’s clear that one of the most pressing concerns is: how do we transform and how do we do that quickly, sustainably and impactfully? As they grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear they want to act as quickly as possible. But many are aware they have a long way to go - especially when it comes to issuing, verifying and sharing qualifications and professional credentials online. 

As the sector rethinks how it operates, it’s worth highlighting an interesting new PwC technology report. Our economists expect the education sector - along with the health and public administration sectors - to benefit more than any other sector from blockchain technology. This may come as a surprise to those who associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. But blockchain is expected to boost the education, health and public administration sectors across the globe by US$574 billion by 2030. It’s one of the key findings in PwC’s new report, Time for Trust: The trillion dollar reason to rethink blockchain, which outlines the impact blockchain will have on the global economy over the next decade.

How blockchain can help

The report explains how blockchain technology can be used to generate and store sensitive personal records online or on mobile apps - such as birth certificates, driving licences or professional qualifications - for instant proof of identification. Universities can create degree certificates that can be shared by graduates with prospective employers at the touch of a button. They can be instantly verified, with no need to run a credentials check with a third party. It frees us all from the time-consuming, inefficient, paper-based credentials system, saving time and money, improving efficiencies and helping to eliminate fraud.

These systems are already in use. Here at PwC, we have partnered with, among others, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a major European university to develop our Smart Credentials blockchain platform. It shares the credentials of chartered accountants and technology graduates in a ‘digital wallet’, saving a huge amount of time and money in the verification process, while combating fraud. Students can also add any number of documents to it, from their birth certificates to a sporting qualification, which they can control and share. Going forward, we plan to scale our experience of Smart Credentials in a deeper transformational context, working with aligned service providers covering technology and resourcing, to build what is effectively an internet of credentials. 

People want to be able to access and share their identity documents and professional qualifications anywhere, anytime. And organisations want to know they can trust what they see online. Blockchain has the power to transform the education sector in this arena.

To find out more about how blockchain is being used right now, read Time for Trust - explore PwC’s research and read the insights from our global industry experts.

To find out more about how blockchain can create value for your organisation, get in touch.

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by Caitroina McCusker Education Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7764 331623

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