November 25, 2021

Blockchain reaches Spanish universities to speed up innovation

• The technology consultancy SEIDOR is developing the CIRCULUM network in collaboration with the Universitat de Vic - Universitat Central de Catalunya (UVic-UCC) and with the advice of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).
• The new tool guarantees the reliability and transparency of services for members of the university community, such as the accreditation of non-official degrees or the publication of research papers.
• An initiative developed from CDTI Innovation funds, the project has been overseen by the Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya and with the collaboration of the Eurecat Technology Centre, and is expected to be progressively adopted by the entire Catalan university system.

25 November 2021. Press release. Blockchain technology has arrived to the world of universities. SEIDOR, a global technology consultancy, has developed CIRCULUM, a new tool to increase the reliability and transparency of information exchange between members of the university community through the use of blockchain technology. The inability to falsify documents or modify records made possible by storing data on a blockchain is ideal for the education sector, where there is a critical need to demonstrate the authenticity and accuracy of all information issued.

CIRCULUM represents real value for the Spanish education sector and is a pioneering initiative in the public sector, allowing the various parties involved (higher education institutions, universities, students, researchers) to use the disruptive capabilities of blockchain technology to generate more secure and efficient relational dynamics and to develop new business models.

A multidisciplinary and disruptive project

40 professionals from the technology consultancy SEIDOR, the Universitat de Vic - Universitat Central de Catalunya (UVic-UCC), the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), alongside other organisations linked to the university system such as the Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC) and the technology centre Eurecat have formed a multidisciplinary team of experts in the functional areas of technology and governance.

SEIDOR has identified various utilities and services in which blockchain can bring significant and unique value to universities, including the accreditation of university-issued credentials, as is already the case in university systems in other countries. The University of Melbourne, for example, has used blockchain since 2017 to issue digital credentials, allowing students to share verified copies of their qualifications with employers and third parties without the risk of tampering.

Blockchain provides many other advantages too, such as tracking the intellectual property of scientific publications and ensuring the traceability of their reuse. It also ensures reliability in the recognition and automatic transfer of academic credits between universities, improving student mobility, optimising the process of managing scholarships for students by enabling exchangeable documents ("vouchers") with the university assigned to the student, and promoting a more agile relationship between companies, universities and students to detect talent and improve the employability of students overall.

Alejandro Daniel O'Davoren, Deputy Managing Director of SEIDOR, stated that "Covid-19 has created a need for a transformation of higher education, including internal processes and services provided to students, and of the various business models currently in use. 4.0 technologies such as blockchain now play a decisive role in driving universities and higher education towards different relational models, both with students and with the other external agents with whom they interact."

New university services

Participating universities have sought to include business and academic management and functional, technical and legal staff in the project. UVic will soon pilot CIRCULUM in some of its academic degrees. According to Joan Busquiel, CIO of the UVic, "this experience has proven to us that blockchain will have a positive influence on the services we offer and improve our internal processes." For its part, the UOC has also participated in a pilot of the project to analyse possible future applications of this technology. According to Ricard Mateu, CIO of the UOC, "this project has helped us understand the advantages of blockchain and to see how this technology fits in our digital transformation."

Eurecat has designed and developed the system's main Smart Contract, responsible for generating and managing academic information, and has participated in the configuration and deployment of the Blockchain network used by CIRCULUM.

The Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC) has overseen the CIRCULUM project to validate authentication of members of the university system through the identity federation (UNIFICAT), with a view to adding all the systems recognised by this educational community. Thanks to this validation, SEIDOR also has medium- and long-term plans to extend the network to the entire university system, with standards adapted to the European Commission's EBSI infrastructure.

The new model implemented within the university system is tailored to the European regulatory framework, unlike other technologies that have been used in this environment, which lacked data processing models and policies appropriate for European regulations. This is why the model has been developed and agreed to with the most important actors in the system: the Universities themselves.

Baptista Borrell, director of education at SEIDOR, "having a tool like CIRCULUM at the service of the university system will contribute to its digital transformation. Although multi-sector initiatives that address the adoption of blockchain already exist, this initiative is a meeting point to define a model that is comprehensively tailored to higher education, a sector with very specific characteristics and its own unique ecosystem. CIRCULUM is an initiative which will lead to great innovation in the education sector. and in the public sector, once again demonstrating the knowledge SEIDOR has developed of this sector since the creation of a specialised division at the end of 2014.".

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