Geneva Graduate Institute
09 October 2023

Integrating Blockchain Technology for the Certification of Master’s and PhD Diplomas

Since June 2023, all Master & PhD diplomas issued by the Geneva Graduate Institute are not only digitised, but are also certified using blockchain technology. The objective was to provide a swift and hassle-free verification of diploma validity for graduates and potential employers alike. Let’s discuss with Marcello Finocchiaro, Deputy Head of Information Systems from the IT department, to delve deeper into the journey and the future of this initiative.

What sparked the move to integrate Blockchain certification for diplomas at the Institute?

When I joined the Institute in 2020, Diego Gutierrez from Student Services & Bruno Chatagnat from the Executive Direction were strongly interested by this idea. Their main motivation was to offer a more professional service while reducing the time and effort spent on verifying the authenticity our diplomas.

Each year, the Institute receives between 150 and 200 related requests. These requests stem primarily from students applying for further studies and from future employers. Previously, a verification could take up to two weeks, due to the manual nature of the process and the availability  of Student Services. We aimed for a system that not only streamlined this process but also ensured that our diplomas remain tamper-proof. Given the progress made at the Institute in digitising various processes over the years, offering a digital certification was considered as the next logical step. It also speeds up the recruitment process for our graduates, by allowing employers to verify the authenticity of a diploma independently and instantaneously.


How did you settle upon SWITCH as your technological partner for this venture?

SWITCH isn't new to us. As a long-standing partner with the Institute, but also with Swiss universities, SWITCH provides IT solutions tailored for academic stakeholders. We firmly believe that a unified approach across all Swiss universities would be a significant improvement. Currently, the Institute, Bâle University,  Saint Gall University, HEP Zürich and others academic bodies have ventured into this realm.


Can you give us a glimpse of how this new system functions?

When diplomas are issued, students receive both printed and digitally certified versions. All digital diplomas are generated through Campus (IS-Academia), our student data management system, and processed through the SWITCHverify portal for certification. Certified copies of the diplomas are uploaded into Campus, and subsequently emailed to the students.

A digital footer is added to each certified diploma and contains two authentication methods: a QR Code and a URL link to the SWITCHverify platform. For verification, employers can either scan the QR code to view the original diploma on their computer or mobile phone, or click on the URL link to access the SWITCHverify portal which allows the verification of the diploma's authenticity.


Could you highlight the project's key milestones?

While this initiative was originally planned in 2020, the pandemic halted its progression due to more pressing priorities. The ball really started rolling in 2022 after detailed discussions with SWITCH as their solution resonated with our needs. The entire implementation spanned roughly over six months. One significant milestone was the development of a new portal in Campus, in collaboration with our partner Equinoxe, entirely dedicated to the generation of digital diplomas. I would also like to recommend SWITCH for the quality of their collaboration; they enhanced several user-oriented features on their side, making the process smoother. Student Services participated in every step along the way and constantly provided useful feedback which contributed to the success of the project. This enabled us to efficiently begin generating certified digital diplomas in June 2023.


What lies on the horizon for this project?

From now on all Master and PhD graduates will receive digital certified diplomas. We are currently extending this process to include transcripts of grades for our Master and PhD programmes. In the future we will explore the possibility of extending this service to our Executive Education programmes. Job certificates and recommendation letters may also be considered moving forward.


Any concluding remarks, Marcello?

I would like to emphasise that many of my IT colleagues also invested a lot of time and energy in designing this solution. Along with Concepta Canale, Head of Student Services, we are confident that this new process is an asset for our students, and will be beneficial to them in their future endeavours. Furthermore, thanks to this process, we have made a significant step in the transition towards fully digital student files.

I look forward to reviewing the progress a year from now and gauging the impact!