Bitcoin tuition payments: Revolution or PR stunt?

In November 2013, the University of Nicosia, a private university in Cyprus, began accepting bitcoin as payment for tuition.

At John Hopkins University, researchers are trying to create their own digital currency called zerocoin. Other alternatives to bitcoin already exist, including dogecoin, which is named after the popular doge meme.

Interest in digital currency like bitcoin has exploded in recent months, due to its rapid growth and its connection to illegal activities.

A 2013 report by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America predicted that bitcoin could eventually account for ten percent of all online transactions, and it currently has a market capitalization of more than $8 billion. At the same time, the currency’s unregulated and international nature has made it a favorite among cybercriminals and those who purchase drugs online.

The FBI in October 2013 shut down Silk Road, an online black market that was believed to have been the home of 9 percent of all drug transactions using bitcoin. The U.S. government seized the equivalent of more than $30 million in bitcoins from the site and its alleged owner, Ross Ulbricht.

Speaking to the European technology website Tech Week, Gordon Fletcher, a senior lecturer in information systems at the University of Salford, said the University of Cumbria’s decision to accept bitcoin may be driven by marketing plans rather than the need to make a firm political statement on the currency.

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