Blockchain in Higher Education: Visibility and Market Forces

New dynamics characterise the age. Due to marketplace competition for and the technological empowerment of the learner-customer, HE management and policy have to reassess the paradigms of pedagogy and power. Agile inchoates and even the “university of one” (expert individuals) threaten HE’s dominance.

Blockchain’s visibility need not be confined to the display and verification of student records; blockchain can present and verify any information, including assessments and their briefs, whole curricula, reading lists, details of teaching staff, exam scripts, and tests of all kinds. Institutional teaching therefore becomes shareable and transparent, making quality visible. The teaching of HE can be directly compared with the teaching of alternative providers. The prestige of an institution thereby becomes testable. For example, the quality of an institution could be measured by the number of its graduates who passed a standardised aptitude or intelligence test, or by a longitudinal study that mapped graduates’ earnings against their HE profile.

Pan-institutional visibility in academic quality would generate pressure for all providers to educate to a minimum standard. This would encourage a levelling of the playing field in terms of quality, and compel more prestigious or higher fee-charging institutions to exceed the standards in a transparent and demonstrable way. Quality elevation should benefit all stakeholders.

Transparency-forcing, trustless technologies adjust the individual-institution relationship dynamic. Blockchain represents a social value proposition: assumptions and conventions surrounding self-sovereignty and identity (with implications for Foucault’s notions of power) will undergo evaluation in light of blockchain’s arrival.

Blockchain represents a value-added proposition inside the educational landscape, and six social value propositions, namely self-sovereignty and identity, trust, transparency and provenance, immutability, disintermediation, and collaborative possibilities.

HE institutions must attract the technologically augmented, hyper-rational, informed and discerning, own market value-aware individual in a respectful, hype-free manner. The days of enticement marketing of HE based on tradition-based perception and prestige are limited. Metrics – employability statistics, ratings, employer endorsements, investment-to-return ratios – and other quantitative and qualitative data will replace traditional promotional methods.