Varsity sets up tech system to verify grad papers

Local | Maisy Mok 23 Jun 2020

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has launched the city's first electronic verified certificate program for employers to check the authenticity of graduates' documents using the latest blockchain technology.

The newly launched "Blockcerts" platform can verify HKUST graduates' credentials, including transcripts, award certification letters and degree diplomas.

The platform is HKUST's attempt to set the trend in gradually replacing the conventional "non-environmentally friendly" paper verification process.

The "Blockcerts" platform can also help avoid cases of forged credentials, which the university comes across one or two times each year, an HKUST spokesman said.

By the end of the month, 6,000 HKUST graduates of last year and this year will begin receiving cryptographically signed and tamper-proof e-versions of their graduation diploma certificates.

Past graduate students of HKUST can apply for an e-transcript from September this year to make use of the new platform.

Employers, agencies or institutes can download and verify graduates' credentials by uploading the graduates' JSON file - provided by the university - on to the "HKUST Blockcert Verifier" website:

HKUST adopted the blockchain technology for verifying the documents, and it takes a few seconds to complete the process.

"Blockchain guarantees data integrity by linking up blocks of records using cryptography," said associate professor of HKUST Chen Qi-feng.

The blockchain is formed by blocks of records that align together. Each block contains an identifier called "hash," which makes each block unique.

If data stored in one of the blocks is tampered with, the blocks of record cannot be formed into a blockchain, meaning the verification would fail.

Users of the Blockcert verifier can see which part of the documents failed the process, such as the expiry date, status and authenticity of the issuer.

The soft copy of the certificate can only be downloaded when verification succeeds.

Few universities around the world have similar platforms, said Andi Lee Wing-yan, operations director of First Advantage, a global background check company.

HKUST said it has introduced the platform to some local companies, including Hong Kong Broadband Network. The reaction has been positive.

The Academic Registrar of HKUST, James Prince, said printed certificates will still be provided to graduates along with their e-certificates as the trend of e-certificate is not common locally.

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