ICM318-Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and Applications

Module Provider: ICMA Centre
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2021/2

Module Convenor: Dr Andrew Urquhart
Email: a.j.urquhart@icmacentre.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Blockchain technology is rapidly changing the financial industry and beyond. Countless applications are being explored in payments, insurance, lending, fund raising, settlement of securities transactions and contract execution. In this course we will explore what a blockchain is and how you can create one with simple Python codes. Cryptocurrencies, one of the most popular uses of blockchain, are explored in detail. The module will present technical concepts at a high level suitable for students whose main interest is finance and the financial applications of blockchain.


The module focuses on:

(1) blockchain applications in industry and financial services

(2) the concept of an open distributed ledger, its advantages and disadvantages

(3) public and private, permissioned and permission-less ledgers

(4) an introduction to the cryptographic concept of a hash function and its use in forming a blockchain

(5) the concept of mining and decentralised cryptocurrencies

(6) bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

(7) Ethereum and the concept of smart contracts and their applications in finance

(8) Python examples

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that students will:

  • Discuss how blockchain is changing the financial industry and the countless opportunities if offers

  • Explain the concept of an open distributed ledger and its advantages and disadvantages over a centralised database;

  • Outline at a high level the cryptographic concept of a hash function and how it is used form a blockchain;

  • Discuss the concept of a cryptocu rrency and the process of mining to form a blockchain;

  • Describe  technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies;

  • Outline the concept of a smart contract and investigate the application of such contracts to asset trading, cross border payments and insurance contracts;

  • Be aware of regulatory environment for blockchains and crypto-assets

Additional outcomes:

The module will use a number of in-class case studies showing the actual use of blockchain and the advantages it has offered. These case studies will develop a high level appreciation of the state of the art of the application of blockchain technology. The module will use the industry standard Python programming language and will build on the programming skills developed in Part 1.

Outline content:

  1. What is Blockchain and applications

  2. Bitcoin Basics

  3. Decentralization

  4. Mechanics of Bitcoin

  5. Storing and Using Bitcoin

  6. Bitcoin Economics

  7. Smart Contracts and Ethereum

  8. Altcoin and the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

  9. Central Bank Digital Currencies and the Future

Global context:

The module covers industry standard techniques. The concepts are applied in investment banks, central banks, hedge funds and asset management firms worldwide.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The core theory and concepts will be presented during lectures. Problem sets will be solved in workshops.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 4
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 40
    Wider reading (directed) 40
    Exam revision/preparation 40
    Preparation for tutorials 8
    Group study tasks 18
    Carry-out research project 30
Total hours by term 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Project output other than dissertation 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

One written final exam (closed book) of length 2 hours.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will be asked to complete a group project (40%) to be submitted in at the end of the spring term.

Formative assessment methods:

Seminar questions are assigned for each class. The seminar leader will facilitate discussion and offer feedback.

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please

refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:


Assessment requirements for a pass:

50% weighted average mark

Reassessment arrangements:

By written examination only, to be taken in August/September, as part of the overall examination arrangements for the MSc programme

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 8 April 2021


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