(file pix) The Education Ministry today announced the setting up of a University Consortium on Blockchain Technology and launched the e-Scroll system – a university degree issuance and verification system based on blockchain technology. NSTP/RAMDZAN MASIAM

PUTRAJAYA: The Education Ministry today announced the setting up of a University Consortium on Blockchain Technology and launched the e-Scroll system – a university degree issuance and verification system based on blockchain technology.

Quoting a BBC Radio report published in January this year, the ministry said there was a trade in fake degrees available internationally.

“The report further mentioned that thousands of UK nationals have bought such fake degrees from a multi-million pound diploma mill in Pakistan.

“Buyers are prepared to spend up to half a million pounds on bogus documents. Sadly, they later successfully join the workforce to become bogus doctors, consultants, and nurses, whose ‘expertise’ our lives depend upon, and bogus engineers whose product and construction we use every day.

“Such a scenario is also not unheard of in Malaysia,” said the ministry in a statement.

Realising the need to safeguard the reputation and integrity of Malaysian universities, the ministry said it had taken decisive action to prevent degree fraud which also cheated and unfairly disadvantaged genuine students.

“The idea was first mooted in January by the MADICT– Majlis Dekan-dekan ICT (Council of ICT

Deans) –of universities in Malaysia. MADICT and the ministry proposed using blockchain technology which is believed to be secure and has the potential to increase the efficiency in authenticating a genuine certificate.

“Currently, Malaysian universities receive thousands of requests globally to verify their genuine graduates. Such verification is still largely done via telephone and emails which contribute to its inefficiency,” it added.

Since the experts in the technology were mostly found at the universities, the ministry had proposed the formation of a Consortium of Universities on the Blockchain Technology to study its adoption and to eventually develop the system, it added.

“The initial members of the Consortium comprise six public universities - Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (UMS), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

The main objective behind the formation of the Consortium, the ministry said, was to spread skills training and the development of the technology among university students and academics.”

In the long run, it added that the Consortium should also be able to offer industry standard blockchain based solutions which had the potential to generate revenue for the member universities.

“The ministry has also appointed IIUM as the current Head of the Consortium.

“Today’s announcement and launching by the Higher Education director-general Datin Paduka Ir Dr

Siti Hamisah Tapsir, marks another step in the ministry’s determination to reform and safeguard the quality of Malaysian higher education.”

On the current system, the ministry said, it was developed by a team led by Professor Datuk Dr Norbik Bashah Idris from IIUM, which used the NEM Blockchain that is interrogated upon scanning of a QR code printed on the Degree certificate.

“Although, such a system can also be built using other blockchains, NEM was chosen due to its unique features in managing traceability and authentication requirements.

“In the current implementation, a verification process can be done from anywhere in the world as long as there is Internet connectivity, and the process takes only a few seconds.

“In its first phase of implementation, all PhD students from IIUM graduating in the convocation on Nov 10 will have their degree certificates embedded into the blockchain. As such, the authenticity of their degrees can be verified instantly from anywhere in the world beyond any doubt,” the ministry said.