September 25, 2020

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HKUST launches HK’s first e-verified certification platform

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has launched the HKUST “blockcerts” platform – a trust-free, user-friendly verification system for documents such as graduation diplomas and academic transcripts, in its latest move to promote a paperless and sustainable campus as well as tackling the problem of fake diplomas.

As the first university in Hong Kong to launch this blockchain-based degree authentication system, HKUST hopes to set a trend for the gradual replacement of the conventional paper verification process – where graduates must make requests and pay the institution every time they need a print copy of their diploma, which is not environmentally friendly and also time-consuming for graduates and employers. HKUST also hopes the Blockcerts system can help hinder illegal activities on academic forgery.

By the end of this month, HKUST graduates will begin receiving cryptographically signed and tamper-proof e-versions of their graduation diploma certificates. Starting in November, the University will also begin providing e-transcripts to graduates. Students can make individual requests for the e-transcript starting September.

Users can download or directly view the e-diploma after verification.

HKUST has been promoting this new initiative to employers including global background check company First Advantage, integrated telecom and technology solutions provider HKBN and tax and audit consultant PwC Hong Kong. Industry interest in this technology has been positive and supportive.

Blockchain guarantees the integrity of data by linking up blocks of records using cryptography. Each block contains a unique identifier called a hash and must be aligned with the hash from the previous block.

That means if the data in any one block is tampered with, its hash will change making it no longer aligned with the hash from its previous block. This would cause the whole blockchain to become invalid, and therefore the user will be alerted to the attempted tampering. This feature is what ensures the integrity of the platform.

The Assistant Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at HKUST behind the “Blockcerts” project stated that blockchain is an emerging technology that is highly-secured, allowing transactions between parties without the presence of any trusted intermediates.

Given such nature, many industries, such as finance and gaming, have begun using it to build applications to make their businesses more efficient and bringing the region towards a smarter society.

Employers can verify blockcerts’ authenticity with a few simple steps on the website.

The “Blockcerts” certificate data is saved on a private and secured University server. Employers or any third parties who wish to verify the authenticity of the diploma and transcript of our graduates can do so by following some simple steps on the University’s official website anytime and anywhere in the world.

HKUST’s Academic Registrar stated, “HKUST prides ourselves on innovating new technologies and best practices. With our debut introduction of Blockcerts, we are now in a position to revolutionize academic credentialing in Hong Kong, Greater China and beyond.”

The “Blockcerts” project is part of the Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab (SSC) campaign which is an initiative HKUST launched in February 2019 that aims to transform the campus into a testing ground for learning, experimenting, and advancing smart and innovative ideas to address real-life challenges.

With a pledge of HK$50 million over the next three years, the University aims to identify sustainable, smart and cross-disciplinary home-grown HKUST projects and implement them on campus.

Projects are collaboratively developed by faculty, staff, students and alumni. By uniting HKUST’s quality research and innovative learning approaches, it is hoped that SSC projects will become a source of inspiration to the Hong Kong community, contributing to its development in becoming a world-class sustainable and smart city.