Manipulation and falsification of certificates issued by universities is a huge problem in our society. Due to the increasing numbers of universities and students and the increasing internationality, it becomes harder and harder to verify whether credentials presented by students or potential employees are valid and issued correctly.
In the current process, employers or universities can call other issuing entities and ask whether the issued certificate is indeed correct. However, this process is tedious and costs a lot of time and effort, therefore, it is often skipped.
With the rise of Blockchain technology, a technology is available which allows us to issue and document actions of single entities, such as universities.
TU Munich and eleven other universities are collaborating to create a global digital credential infrastructure that sets a worldwide standard for issuing, storing, displaying and verifying certificates, badges and other achievements. The joint initiative called Digital Credentials explores the latest public key infrastructures, public ledgers, and blockchain technologies to build the next generation of digital certification.
The universities involved include Technical University of Munich, Hasso Plattner Institute of the University of Potsdam, Delft University of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Berkeley, University of California, Irvine, University of Toronto, University of Milano-Bicocca, McMaster University, Georgia Tech, and Tecnológico de Monterrey.
The way organizations issue and manage certificates has not been changed for hundreds of years. While the number of degrees and programs increase, managing and verifying certificates for both institutions and individuals have yet to become easier. Although there have been previous efforts by universities to digitize certifications, they lack of adoption.
The leading universities, therefore, are joining their efforts to set the standards and to guide the community into a digital transformation. The intention is to motivate other universities to join in or adopt the standards. It is also important that a solution for learners are built by trusted institutions that place emphasis on the interests of the individuals.
The need for such a solution becomes apparent when individuals no longer have access to the certifying institution. A verifiable digital certificate would let employers and universities check qualifications of candidates without the need to approach the issuing institution. For individuals, it is also complicated proving the validity and authenticity of their earned credentials. The process often requires visits to issuer institutions, certified translations, and attestation by notaries costing both time and money.
The group develops technical standards that other providers can build on top. A standardized digital solution should provide individuals a “certificate wallet” that lets them maintain their lifelong achievements that are under their control, easily verifiable, and safe.
Hamilton Duffy, K., Pongratz, H., Schmidt, J.P., Chartrand, J.,Freeman, S., Gallersdörfer, U., Lisle, M., Mühle, A., van Engelenburg, S.: Building the Digital Credential Infrastructure for the Future. Whitepaper.