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Friday, June 8, 2012

TRACE: Anti-Corruption


June 6, 2012

Taking a Degree at the University of (anti-) Corruption 

As college students pack their bags and head home for the summer, we took a quick look at anti-corruption efforts on university campuses.  One very positive development is the growth of anti-corruption  programs at universities around the world.  The latest to join this global trend is a group of 100 universities across Indonesia.  These schools have all agreed to offer courses on integrity and anti-corruption as part of the curricula in public administration, law, Islamic studies, health, business ethics and communication.  The hope is that with a new cadre of tens of thousands of young professionals who have been made aware of corruption problems and how to combat them, Indonesia will make inroads in the fight against corruption.  Given recent statements by Indonesian parliamentarian Marzuki Alie that Indonesia’s most corrupt individuals were educated at elite universities such as the University of Indonesia and Gadja Mada University, the measure couldn’t come too soon.
Many national university systems have long been accused of corruption in the administration of admissions exams.  Social media have helped expose some of the corruption; an example of this is the scheme to inflate test scores and award study grants to less qualified medical students at aRussian university.  In Georgia  significant progress has been made toward reducing corruption in the admissions process.  Not long ago, it was common for prospective students of medicine or law to  pay unofficial fees of up to $15,000 to so-called tutors, to “prepare” them for the university’s entrance exams.  The tutors in fact served on the university’s examination committee in charge  of grading the exams.  The bribe-givers were told to include code words in their anonymous entrance exams.  Now there is hope in Georgia that such practices has been curbed.  Examples of similar practices – and fortunately, similar efforts to eradicate them – abound (CroatiaArmenia).  Other university systems still seem to have a long road ahead.  Some diplomas are not recognizedinternationally due to perceived corruption at the institutions that awarded them.  And in socially and economically troubled Greece, reform of the university administration and  admissions process has been put on hold, much to the chagrin of anti-corruption activists.
One place where students have taken things into their own hands is Uganda, where a corruption-reporting website has been set up.  The site, Notinmycountry.org, allows individuals at 34 universities to name members of the faculty and administration, and describe incidents in which the named individual requested a bribe payment, a sexual favor, etc. and for what purpose.
All in all, with scandals affecting the highest officials at universities in the UK,  Australia and elsewhere, the student body may not be a bad place to begin serious anti-corruption efforts.

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