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Just 20 years ago, being accommodated in a cold, sparsely furnished room was the best thing a university student could hope for. Merely getting into University was an honour in itself, and the following four to six years were dedicated to studying in damp libraries, embracing subpar canteen offerings and sitting around on college lawns connecting with like-minded souls.

Today, many university students rely on automated heating technology controlled by remote ipads to warm up their rooms while they are in class; study notes are uploaded to the cloud on an hourly basis for fear of their accidental deletion, and smartwatches are used to buy beer at the on-campus bar.

Students today need dedicated apps to tell them which lecture hall their next class is in, and almost 100 percent of assessments are created on students’ personalised laptops and digitally checked for plagiarised content before being uploaded to a class folder for marking by their professor. Universities of today embody the ‘smart’ digital revolution we have found ourselves experiencing, with many basing their entire operations around digital systems that resemble ‘Siri’: app-controlled, voice-enabled systems that provide students with information on exams, timetables, assignments, and more. Deakin University, of Australia, is one that has fully embraced the digitech revolution in all its glory, with its digital system ‘Genie’ also capable of producing huge amounts of data on students so as to better inform university planners of student needs and behaviours. It is not dissimilar from the way in which financial institutions and governments collect data on people today.

The digital revolution has well and truly changed the way students experience university – and thank goodness, given the world students now find themselves in upon graduation. It is a world that has been completely and irrevocably changed by the fintech revolution, not only on a global financial level, but also in the employment landscape.

As background, financial technology (fintech) is the term used to describe new technologies that seek to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. ​​​At its core, fintech helps companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations, using specialised software and algorithms that are used on electronic devices. And I firmly believe it is also the biggest gamechanger of the decade.

Fintech has upended the way we bank, get paid, pay bills, purchase commodities, save, insure our assets, and invest. So it makes sense that universities have at last recognised that if it wishes to educate and empower the next generation of workers and innovators, it must prepare its students for the fintech revolution. From offering new, fintech-focused courses, to becoming a ‘smarter’ ecosystem on-campus, to enhancing its digital offering, universities are doing exactly this.

Even the way a university education is delivered in this day and age is symbolic of the way the financial world now works: everything is customised and available 24/7, on-demand. Be it on-campus, blended, or wholly online, universities have recognised that if they wish to appeal to every kind of consumer they must be prepared to offer flexible learning packages. In the same way, as fintech competition intensifies on a global scale, financial providers will need to have more personalised offerings and prioritise individual needs and demands more than ever before.

From developers, to cross-company cybersecurity liaison, blockchain compliance and regulatory personnel, sustainable wealth managers, and ‘cryptoforecasters’, there is an absurdly exciting array of new roles and skill-sets that will be required in the coming years as fintech truly makes its mark on the world. With blossoming employment prospects in new fields comes demand for new higher education streams, and universities are recognising this.

The number of ‘fintech-focused’ degrees and courses available globally to university students are growing each and every year. Just this year, Australia’s Swinburne University became the country’s first to offer a number of university courses geared to future fintech professionals, joining the likes of Oxford and Harvard, which already offer fintech courses. Already, more than 9,000 people from upwards of 135 countries have taken Oxford’s online open courses, which focus on digital transformation in business, blockchain strategy, automated trading systems, and artificial intelligence. Swinburne’s Masters level fintech course includes two hands-on applied subjects that involve working on relevant, real-world financial services and technology projects, and other universities are soon to follow suit.

In medieval times, universities mostly serviced religion and spirituality; in the post-industrial era they worked to promote technological and scientific advancement. Today, they are financially incentivised to deliver the courses that the market demands. Given that the fintech market grew intensely in 2018 with global investments topping $57.9 billion, and given it is only expected to grow further, universities would be well-advised to continue developing and offering new courses geared toward the next generation of fintech professionals.

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