To maintain its place at the forefront of the cryptocurrency sector, the University of Malta is to provide a €300,000 scholarship fund for students of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

The fund will start this year and will be split over three years to support students who will specialise in ICT, law, finance and engineering.

It is seen as an important step to help maintain Malta’s place as an international hub for the fintech industry and was announced following an agreement between the university and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA).

Silvio Schembri, Malta’s Junior Minister for digital economy, hopes the scholarship will help to attract blockchain and financial technology companies to Malta by delivering a supply of graduates with the skills and knowledge needed for the sector.

“These companies need technical resources both to build and to operate by use of this technology, as well as experts in financial services, law and managerial roles,” he said. “We look forward to see the first Maltese occupying these important and well-paid roles whilst also hoping that these will expand considerably in the future as the industry continues to grow here in Malta.”

Alfred Vella, rector of the University, said a review of law, finance and ICT degree and master’s programmes is underway to ensure these support the government’s strategy of promoting Malta as “The Blockchain Island”. This is seen as important to support Malta’s efforts to attract many of the emerging international finance businesses, with their associated lucrative jobs and foreign investment.

A spokesman for the university said the institution expected the review would help signpost the best way forward to maintain its expertise in the needs of this fast-growing financial technology sector.

MITA executive chairman Tony Sultana welcomed the development and added that the agency is also supporting other educational partners to deliver similar initiatives. In addition MITA will offer training to familiarise public sector employees with new fintech, regtech, artificial intelligence (AI), distributed ledger technology, blockchain and cryptocurrency developments.

This October, Malta will host the Delta Summit, a major gathering of blockchain and digital innovation leaders, with MITA as the main IT partner for the important event.

In addition, following the introduction of the Virtual Financial Assets Act into Maltese law earlier this year, the Malta Financial Services Authority has embarked upon a round of training courses for staff at financial institutions based on the island to enable them to operate competently under the new legislation.

It is in this environment of continuing innovation in financial technology that the University of Malta hopes its new cryptocurrency scholarship fund will keep the institution at the forefront of the financial world’s most promising new sector.