THE University of Cumbria is thought to be the first public university in the world to accept a virtual currency as payment for course fees.

Bitcoin, an online currency and payment system, enables the international transfer of funds per day at an amount greater than Western Union.

The move comes with the launch of courses that look at the role of complementary currencies in economic and social systems, led by the newly-founded Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), and its professor Jem Blendell.

“Some support Bitcoin due to its speed and cost, others due the new era of financial freedom it could enable,” he said.

“Others are concerned about it and how it will affect economies and society. Others think that what comes next will be even more important. We think it is essential to become better informed and analyse it from many different perspectives.”

The university uses the system Bitpay to process any payments and the acceptance of Bitcoin will initially be limited to the two programmes that address complementary currencies - including the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership, which will be taught from its Lake District campus in June.

Professor Blendell added: “We believe in learning by doing, and so to help inform our courses on complementary currencies, we are trialling the acceptance of them.

"The internal discussions about currency and payment innovation and the practical implications for different departments have been insightful.”