University of Malta launches €300,000 blockchain scholarship fund

The University of Malta and the Malta Information Technology Agency MITA have signed an agreement that will see EUR300,000 being made available to students wishing to pursue their studies in blockchain and distributed ledger technology in the forthcoming academic year.

The scholarship fund will be available for courses with at least 30 ECTS credits directly related to DLT and will fund Master’s and PhD research dissertations related to blockchain and DLT. It will be a fully funded scholarship that will assist students specializing in ICT, law, finance and engineering. It will also be split over three years.

Ideally, the scholarship is meant to provide the necessary human resources and experts in financial services, law and managerial roles for companies in Malta. Malta is host to some of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world in terms of trading volumes. These include Binance, Okex and BitPay. In regard to the scholarship fund, Junior Minister for digital economy Silvio Schembri said that the various companies need technical resources both to build and to operate by use of the blockchain technology.

Ideally, Malta is regarded as a progressive community for cryptocurrency and fintech and passage of laws relating to blockchain is an addition step that makes this further possible. The laws not only ensure that cryptocurrencies are part of the country’s economy but also allow regulators to regulate blockchain-driven operations.

Provision of blockchain-related education is also to be seen only part of what the country is doing to make the technical infrastructure favorable for cryptocurrency and blockchain firms. Already, the financial and banking stability by the Maltese banks is encouraging related services such as fiat-to-cryptocurrency conversions thanks to pro-blockchain legislation.

Earlier in June, Binance, for instance, entered into a partnership with a local bank in an agreement that could see integration of fiat currency pairs, such as the US dollar, Euro, and the British pound. In comparison to many other places, crypto exchanges have been struggling to pen agreements with banks in regard to cryptocurrencies, mainly because of regulatory challenges in many countries.

The university will also continue to review degree and master's programs in law, finance, ICT and other areas to include units relating to DLT, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, AI, fintech and regtech, according to the university rector Alfred Vella. It is also conducting courses to financial institutions to help them qualify for implementation of the Virtual Financial Assets Act which was placed into law earlier this year.

The Virtual Financial Assets Act or VFA Act introduced a new regulatory body responsible for overseeing the sector, the Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act (MDIA) and the Innovative Technology Arrangement and Services Act (ITAS). A 'financial instrument test' is already established by Maltese Parliament is used to determine whether a DLT asset will qualify as electronic money, financial instrument, a virtual financial asset or a virtual token.’ The MDIA Act serves to certify and supervise technology arrangements including DLT platforms and related service providers who apply voluntarily for registration under the Innovative Technology Arrangements and Service Act.

Although the MFSA introduced this act, some complained that it was onerous and over-cautious in several aspects and makes business slightly more complicated where cryptocurrencies and blockchain are concerned according to a report by CCN news media.

MITA is also engaging in other related initiatives with educational institutions such as carrying training sessions for public sector employees to familiarize themselves with the technologies. The agency is also an IT partner for the upcoming Delta Summit in October.