One of the biggest benefits of the latest technology in the world is the power it often has to democratise sectors, throwing the door open to once restricted opportunities. A new blockchain-based platform is now seeking to do the same for elite university education. New digitally-based education institute Woolf is using blockchain to allow eager students from anywhere in the world to study under Oxford academics.
Leaving aside the cut throat competition for places, getting a degree from Oxford and other elite UK universities, any UK university for that matter, is a hugely expensive affair. Annual undergraduate fees at Oxford range from £9250 for students from the UK and EU up to £23,885 for students who hail from a non-EU country. Through in accommodation and living costs and even when living on a meagre student budget those pursuing a top education, with parents often footing the bill, are staring down the barrel of at least £25,000 a year.
App-based Woolf, which describes itself as ‘Uber for students, Airbnb for academics’, hopes to disrupt the university education sector by tearing down the traditional barriers to entry that have meant only the lucky few are able to gain access to the very best higher education teaching resources. Woolf will provide tutorials and lectures by video link with the underlying blockchain technology verifying attendances, recording grades and student payments. As well as saving on the real estate costs of bricks-and-mortar university entails, the decentralised nature of Woolf’s blockchain administration system will bring down other overheads as well as offering students and teachers contractual security. These cost savings will be passed onto students, leading to a ‘borderless digital educational society’.
Woolf’s founder and CEO is Joshua Broggi of Oxford University’s faculty of philosophy and its first college, named ‘Ambrose’ has a teaching staff of mainly Oxford academics. Cambridge colleagues are to be invited to form a second digital college in the near future and it is hoped Ivy League equivalents will soon follow. Accreditation for the degree courses offered is to be sought from the UK, EU and US within the next few months.
Broggi believes that Woolf addresses a problem of poor use of intellectual resources, with many academics underemployed. Comparatively low salaries compared to the private sector is also an increasing challenge for elite universities striving to hang on to their star academics. Woolf will hopefully contribute positively to keeping the best minds within academia by allowing them to supplement their income without having to leave for a full time job in the private sector. Broggi forecasts that Woolf’s academics will be able to earn up to £72,000 a year through the app. All that while massively reducing costs for students. If it realises its potential, Woolf can be a fine example of how the latest blockchain technology can be used.