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Eduard Klein

9.

Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

9.1. Introduction
After the collapse of communism a problematic development took place in nearly
all former Soviet states. As a consequence of social uncertainties as well as weak and
unstructured formal institutional settings that existed, during the transition period of
the 1990s, informal phenomenon such as corruption and blat-relationships expanded.
However, during the last decade the post-soviet states were able to reach a certain
level of political and economical consolidationwhile in Ukraine we observe a situation, which can be described best as democratization without consolidation, in the
case of Russia it is the other way round a consolidation without democratizationin
which corruption did not disappear but even grew.
Nowadays the education sector is deemed to be one of the most corrupted
spheres. Higher educationonce the international figurehead of the Soviet Union
has especially become utterly corrupted, not only in the two countries examined but
also in virtually every post-Soviet State.

9.1.1.

The Consolidation of Corruption in the Post-Soviet Education Sector

Corruption in the post-soviet space exists today not only in business and politicsusually categorized as grand corruption , but as well in all spheres of public administration, often referred to as petty corruption. Surveys and studies show that petty corruption has become an integral part of everyday life of Ukrainian1 and Russian2 citizens.
One of the main reasons, why the education sector is especially affected by this
development is the lack of funding for state educational institutions. While the Soviet
Union had spent 16 per cent of its state budget on educational purposes (1990), Russias
expenditures in education declined to 3.45 per cent (1998).3 The Ukrainian system had
to cope with similar cuts, having a budget between three to four times lower than
1
2

Creative Union TORO / Transparency International National Contact in Ukraine: National


Integrity System Assessment. Ukraine 2011, http://www.toro.org.ua/download/projects_doc
uments/name/137/book4curve.pdf
Ministerstvo konomicheskogo Razvitiya Rossiiskoi Federacii / Obshcherossiiskii obshchestvennyi fond Obshchestvennoe Mnenie: Sostoyanie bytovoi korruptsii v Rossiiskoi Federatsii
[Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation / Public Opinion Foundation:
The State of Everyday Corruption in the Russian Federation], Moscow, 2011, http://fom.ru/obsh
chestvo/138
Teichmann, Christine: Nachfrageorientierte Hochschulfinanzierung in Russland. Ein innovatives Modell zur Modernisierung der Hochschulbildung, HoF Arbeitsberichte no.1, 2004, p.9.

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Eduard Klein

during the Soviet period.4 This alimentation forced institutions and their employees
to develop alternative revenue mechanisms, both legal and illegal.
As the main legal income, in the early 1990s tuition fees were introduced for
the formerly tuition-free education system. The share of students paying for their
studies increased rapidly and reached 50 per cent by 2000. A further source of legal
income was the leasing of educational buildings and other facilities to private entrepreneurs. Additionally, many university lecturers earned extra wages for private tutoring. However, according to estimates the supplementary revenues could not compensate the financial gaps. The Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) had only about
1540 per cent of the budgets they actually needed. This problem opened the door
to corruption.
Poorly defined legal framework, hybrid state and private funding and opaque
admission procedures facilitated forms of corruption such as embezzlement, and nepotism. Bribery and other forms of informal payments were widely viewed as a legitimate way to halt the collapse of the education system, providing underpaid educational staff the additional salary they required to survive.
Although in recent years the financial and regulatory situation has enhanced, the
improvements have not resulted to a reduction in corruption. On the contrary, corruption has spread continuously and became highly institutionalized.

9.1.2.

Forms of Academic Corruption in Present Russia and Ukraine

One reason for the importance of academic corruption as a relevant field of study
would be that: In the globalized world of the 21st century higher education is essential
for the future prospect of a state. Corruption in education has considerable ramifications for the society affected by it.5 Economic and social prosperity are based on the
education of the members of society. If the quality of education decreases, for example, due to corruption, unqualified graduates will enter the labour market and Russia
and Ukraine will lose their ability to compete on international markets.
Academic or educational corruption is best defined by Jacques Hallak and Muriel
Poissonas
the systematic use of public office for private benefit, whose impact is significant on the
availability and quality of educational goods and services, and, as a consequence on access,
quality or equity in education.6

4
5
6

Wulff, Annegret / Malerius, Stephan: Demokratiebildung in Belarus, Russland und der Ukraine.
Rahmenbedingungen und Beispiele, Berlin: Fonds Erinnerung und Zukunft, 2007, p.160.
U4 Anti Corruption Research Center: Corruption in the Education Sector (pdf-Version of Theme
pages on www.U4.no), U4, No. 4, 2006, http://issuu.com/cmi-norway/docs/2563-corruption-inthe-education-sector
Hallak, J. / Poisson, M.: Corrupt Schools, Corrupt Universities. What Can Be Done?, Paris:
International Institute for Educational Planning, 2007, p.29.

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

175

It is not a new phenomenon in Russia and Ukraine and already existed in the Soviet
period: In 1963 Nikita Khrushchev charged that bribes are given [] for admission to
higher educational establishments, and even for the awarding of diplomas.7 However,
with the end of communism its intensity and nature have reached new dimensions.
While in the socialist period academic corruption occurred rather sporadically, its character has become systematic in the present system.
Latest figures indicate that up to every second student in Russia8 is confronted
with corruption.9 In 2010 Viktor Panin of the Russian Consumer Rights Protection
Society of Educational Services (OZZPOU) concluded in his analysis on educational
corruption that it has become the norm from kindergarten to dissertations10. He estimates the market volume of educational corruption $5.5 billion for 2010. According
to a recently published survey by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation about 33 per
cent of Ukrainian students have had personal experience with corruption. 29 per cent
have heard about educational corruption from fellow students.11
According to David Chapman (2002) corruption in the education sector:
can happen at virtually every level, from the central ministry down to the school and classroom. It can happen any time educators operate as gatekeepers to real or assumed benefits. As education is widely viewed as access to life opportunity, higher lifetime earnings,
and greater social mobility, even seemingly small decisions are often awarded great value.12

At Russian and Ukrainian universities corruption appears usually in the following areas:
1. At entrance examinations to gain admissions
2. During a course of studies to ensure achievements on the course
3. At the end of or after studies to gain a degree or doctorate
4. At the administrative level, e.g. the purchase of materials

7
8
9

10
11
12

And even as early as 1935, the Soviet magazine Krokodil reported corruption during university admissions; see: Simis, Konstantin: USSR. Secrets of a Corrupt Society, London: Dent, 1982,
p.43.
With a total of 7,418,000 students in 2009/2010 Russia has the largest student body in Europe.
Federal State Statistics Service: Higher Education Institutions, www.gks.ru, accessed 16July
2011, http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/new_site/population/obraz/vp-obr1.htm
Ministerstvo konomicheskogo Razvitiya Rossiiskoi Federatsii / Obshcherossiiskii obshchestvennyi fond Obshchestvennoe Mnenie: Sostoyanie bytovoi korruptsii v Rossiiskoi Federatsii
[Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation / Public Opinion Foundation:
The State of Everyday Corruption in the Russian Federation], Moscow, 2011, http://fom.ru/obshchestvo/138
The analysis by Panin, Viktor: Korruptsiya v obrazovanii sovremenoi Rossii [Corruption in Education
in Todays Russia], 2010 is available under http://www.ozppou.ru/documents/methodical
Democratic Initiative Foundation, Press Conference, 12April 2011, http://dif.org.ua/ua/press/
ofkeofjk
Chapman, D.: Corruption and the Education Sector, Sectoral Perspectives on Corruption,
November 2002.

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Eduard Klein

The admission procedure is generally the first stage at which prospective students
are involved in corruption.13 An admission policy based on corrupt practices is problematic as it subverts the fair and free access to higher education, which is in both
states guaranteed by law.14 It is not necessarily the most talented students who enter
the universities but the wealthiest. An education system, which allows applicants to
enter universities through corrupt means, will produce less-qualified graduates for the
labour market. Payments made for admission are rather high. In April 2010 for example, Polina Surina, a senior lecturer and the daughter of a Dean at the Lomonosov State
University, was caught when she accepted a bribe of 35,000 for guaranteeing admission to a place at her faculty.15
During their courses, students use corruption to determine their grades and to
save time and effort. At some universities corrupt practices are highly institutionalized
and price-lists for certain grades are handed out to the students. The amount of the
bribe may vary, but usually the price for grades or course exemptions is affordable for
the majority of students: In Ukraine the average bribe sum was 376 Hryvnia (33) in
2011.16 In Russia 3,300 Roubles on average (80) were paid in the term 2007/08.17 Even
if the individual bribe (often in form of a gift) is small, added together the payments
amount to a considerable sum. Due to such informal practices the quality of education suffers seriously18 and students, through their actions, validate the idea that corrupt behaviour is effective and rational.19
13

14

15
16
17
18

19

Sazonov, Dmitri: Korruptsiya v sfere vysshego obrazovaniya. Regional'nyi aspekt i tendentsii razvitiya (na primere Saratovskoi oblasti) [Corruption in the Sphere of Higher Education. Regional
Aspects and Tendencies in Development (Using the Example of Saratov Region)], Saratov:
State Academy of Law, 2007; Saborovskaya, Alina S. et al.: Vysshee obrazovanie v Rossii. Pravila
i real'nost' [Higher Education in Russia. Rules and Reality], Moscow: Independent Institute for
Social Policy, 2004.
Sazonov, Dmitri: Korruptsija v sfere vysshego obrazovaniya. Regional'nyi aspekt i tendentsii razvitiya (na primere Saratovskoi oblasti) [Corruption in the Sphere of Higher Education. Regional
Aspects and Tendencies in Development (Using the Example of Saratov Region)], Saratov:
State Academy of Law, 2007; Saborovskaya, Alina S. et al.: Vysshee obrazovanie v Rossii. Pravila
i real'nost' [Higher Education in Russia. Rules and Reality], Moscow: Independent Institute for
Social Policy, 2004.
Russian State Agency for Legal and Judicial Information, http://www.infosud.ru/anticorruption_
news/20110314/252026708.html, accessed 17July 2011.
Democratic Initiative Foundation, Press Conference, 12April 2011, http://dif.org.ua/ua/press/
ofkeofjk, accessed 18July 2011.
Galitskiy, Efim / Levin, Mark: Zatraty semei na obrazovanie detei. Informatsionnyi byulleten'
[Family Expenditures on Childrens Education. Informational Bulletin], Moscow: Higher School
of Economics, 2008.
Sazonov, Dmitri: Korruptsija v sfere vysshego obrazovaniya. Regional'nyj aspekt i tendentsii razvitiya (na primere Saratovskoi oblasti) [Corruption in the Sphere of Higher Education. Regional
Aspects and Tendencies in Development (Using the Example of Saratov Region)], Saratov: State
Academy of Law, 2007.
Vladimir Rimsky observed, that for young people at the age of 1825 with higher education it
was quite rational [] to use illegal methods for certain problems solving along with low significance of rational arguments for anti corrupt behaviour. Rimsky, Vladimir: Sposobstvuet li

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

177

Furthermore, there is a rising demand for postgraduate degrees that results into
an increasing amount of corruption in the field of postgraduate studies.20 Because a
doctorate has a positive impact on the holders social prestige, job perspectives and
salary, people are willing to bypass the time-consuming formal procedures and acquire
a title illegally through corruption or political pressure.21
Finally, corruption in the higher education sector occurs at the administrative
level. This form is said to have increased considerably during recent years. It involves
for example the purchase of materials, public procurement, and kickbacks on construction. The sums are usually large, for example the vice rector of the State University of
Administration in Moscow was found taking a bribe of 4 million Roubles (100,000),
which he had requested for signing a renovation contract.22
This chapter focuses on the first form of educational corruption: namely corruption during the admissions stage. According to estimates in 2010 between$520 million (UNESCO) and $1.5 billion (Economic Department of the Russian Interior Ministry)
were spent on admissions to Russian Universities. For Ukraine we have no available
data on the spending on corruption during admissions, but we have data on its pervasiveness. A survey carried out in 2007 by USAID found out that nearly half of the
respondents interacting with universities had been approached for bribes. 37.6 per
cent of the respondents who admitted that they had paid bribes explained that they
did so to gain admission.23

20
21

22

23

sistema vysshego obrazovaniya rasprostraneniyu korruptsii v Rossii? [Does the System of Higher
Education Promote Spreading of Corruption in Russia?], in: Terra Economicus, 2010 (vol.8), no.3,
pp.91102, here p.91.
Kalimullin, Tagir R.: Rossiiskii rynok dissertatsionnykh uslug [Russian Market for Dissertation
Services], Moscow: Higher School of Economics, 2006; Osipian, Ararat L.: Corruption in Russias
Doctoral Education, Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 2008.
Ararat Osipian gives an illustrative example: The leader of liberal-democrats, Vladimir Zhirinovsky,
who came third on the 2008 Presidential elections, defended his Doctor of Sciences dissertation
without holding the Candidate Sciences degreean extremely unusual case. The candidate
threatened to bloc the approval of the countrys annual budget in the Russian Parliament while
his supporters attacked the Academic Board where the defense was to take place. According
to the media, the defense itself was turned into a political show. Zhirinovsky defended the dissertation pretentiously titled The present, the past, and the future of the Russian people. He
received his doctorate in Philosophy, even though the Faculty of Philosophy refused to accept
the dissertation to the defense. The dissertation was defended in the Faculty of Sociology in
Moscow State University (MGU), the most prestigious HEI in the country. In: Osipian, AraratL.:
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Political Corruption of Russian Doctorates, 2008, http://mpra.ub.unimuenchen.de/11138/
This was reported by the Russian State Agency for Legal and Judicial Information, Prorektor
GUU poluchil sem' let uslovno za vzjatku v 4 mln rublej [Prorector of the State University of
Administration sentenced to 7 years on probation for 4 m rubles bribe], 22March 2011, http://
www.infosud.ru/anticorruption_news/20110322/252078166.html
Round, J./ Rodgers, P.: The Problems of Corruption in Post-Soviet Ukraines Higher Education
Sector, in: International Journal of Sociology, 2009 (vol.39), no.2, pp.8095.

178

9.1.3.

Eduard Klein

The Introduction of Standardized External Testing Systems

In Russia and Ukraine there is a growing consciousness towards the problem of corruption during admissions at HEIs. Initially only a few progressive Western-style universities, for example the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and the MohylaAcademy in Kyiv, reacted to the increase in corruption and replaced the opaque postSoviet system of oral examinations, which was often undermined by corruption and
nepotism, with merit-based admission processes. Their new approach was effective
and showed that even in a corrupt environment a corruption-free admission system
can be realized. The universities which established the new system not only became
the most emphatic proponents of independent admission testing, but simultaneously
were regarded as best practise examples in their countries.
The governments acknowledged these achievements, and demands to reform
the whole admission regimes emerged in both countries: an evaluation tool for education quality should be established and equal access for all applicants guaranteed.
These goals could only be achieved through a transparent system with standardized
testing methods and the exclusion of potentially corrupt admission committees.

9.1.3.1.

The Unified State Exam in Russia

The pre-2009 university admission system was prone to corruption for several reasons: The entrance examinations were non-uniform, allowing standards to vary widely;
some universities had oral, some written exams; some used so-called dean or rector lists, allowing top officials to approve their favourites (often the applicants paying the highest sums or close relatives); and admission committees were often highly
corrupt. Furthermore, a huge grey market of tutoring evolved, where at least some
of the so-called repetitors did not teach at all, but used their contacts to admission
committees (often they were themselves part of the commissions) to place their tutees
at a certain university or facultyof course for good money.
In 2009, after a six-year testing phase, the Unified State Exam EGE (Edinyi gosudarstvennyi kzamen) was implemented to replace inconsistent and opaque procedures and to guarantee harmonized, transparent and fair admissions. The successful
completion of the computer-based (and therefore objectively fair) exam entitles the
examinee to enter a higher educational institution. The exam became mandatory for
all graduates of the 11th class who subsequently wanted to enter HEIs.
The outcomes of the reform are heavily disputed among experts. An unreleased
study of Viktor Vachshtayn concludes that four main goals were reached through the
reform: first that school graduates can chose Universities (before the reform the universities chose the applicants); second leading Universities in major cities have a significant bigger share of regional students; third an efficient tool for measuring the

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

179

quality of graduates was established; and finally, corruption during admissions has
been significantly decreased.24 While there is more or less consensus about the first
three achievements, the decrease in corruption is still often doubted. For example, the
report Lessons from the EGE-2010, prepared by the Commission for the Development
of Education at the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, states that we can
assume that corruption during the EGE, unfortunately, has become such a normal phenomenon in some Russian regions, that it is taken for granted.25
However, the prices for corruption during university admissions have grown: While
in 2009 between 30,00060,000 Roubles (ca. $1,000$2,000) had been paid to pass
one of the eleven partial examinations of the EGE with an A-mark, in 2010 an average
of 100,000150,000 Roubles (ca. $3,500$5,300) had to be offered. For financially disadvantaged families this money is hardly affordable. The fair and open access to institutions of higher education promised by the reform did not materialize.
The independent Levada Centre regularly conducts opinion polls asking people
what they think about the new exam (see Table 9-1). Whereas, in 2001 about 50 per
cent of the respondents had felt positive about the reform, after the mandatory introduction of the EGE, in 2009 the number of proponents decreased significantly.
Table 9-1:

Question: What is your attitude towards the abolition of admission exams at


universities and replacing them on the basis of a Unified State Exam at the end
of the 11th grade? (in %)
May
2001
18
32

Sept.
2002
19
31

Aug.
2003
23
28

May
2004
13
31

June
2006
14
30

July
2007
12
28

June
2009
6
22

May
2010
9
25

May
2011
10
26

Very positive
Rather positive
Rather
19
15
15
22
22
25
25
31
25
negative
Very negative
9
6
12
15
10
11
15
12
16
Hard to answer
22
28
12
20
24
24
32
23
23
I know nothing
11
about it
Source: Levada Center: Rossiyane o EG i shkolnom obrazovanii [Russians on EGE and Education in School],
24May 2011, http://www.levada.ru/press/2011052400.html

24
25

Vachshtayn, Viktor: Monitoring sotsial'nych posledstvii vvedeniya EG. Vliyanie na obrazovatel'nyi


process, kadrovuyu politiku i zhiznennye shansy shkol'nikov [Monitoring of Social Consequences of
the Introduction of EGE. Influence on Educational Process, Staff Policy and Life Chances of Pupils].
Obshchestvennaya Palata Rossiiskoi Federatsii, Komissiya po Razvitiyu Obrazovaniya:
Uroki provedeniya EG-2010. Po materialam obrashcheniya grazhdan na goryachuyu liniyu
Obshchestvennoi palaty Rossiiskoi Federatsii EG-2010 [Public Chamber of the Russian
Federation, Commission on Development of Education: Lessons on the Implementation of EG2010], Moscow: Izdatel'skii dom Gosudarstvennogo universiteta Vysshej shkoly konomiki,
2010, here p.53.

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Eduard Klein

One reason for this distrust is the problem of corruption, which, according to the interviewees did not decrease, but rather increased (see Table 9-2).
Table 9-2:

Question: Did the amount of bribery, blat and other abuses during admissions
since the introduction of the Unified State Exam process increase or decrease?*
(in %)

June 2004
March 2009
May 2010
May 2011
Increase
21
25
27
30
Decrease
14
17
15
17
Stayed the same
48
36
31
33
Hard to answer
18
23
28
20
* Until 2010 the question was Will instead of Did the amount increase or decrease.
Source: Levada Center: Rossiyane o EG i shkolnom obrazovanii [Russians on EGE and Education in School],
24May 2011, http://www.levada.ru/press/2011052400.html, accessed 17July 2011.

In June 2011 the Public Opinion Foundation also asked whether corruption had decreased
since the introduction of the EGE. According to their figures, only every 20th respondent (5 per cent) believed in a reduction. 41 per cent answered that corruption had
increased and 30 per cent thought that the level had not changed.26
The 2011 Unified State Exam saw lots of scandalsfrom paid students taking
the exam for school-graduates27, test answers circulating in social networks28 or corrupt officials inside the Education Ministry and the testing institutions.29 In the light
of these events, it is not remarkable that most Russians have a sceptical or even negative opinion of the EGE.

26
27

28

29

The Public Opinion Foundation: Uchis', student [Student, learn!], 29 June 2011, http://fom.ru/
obshchestvo/10038
This was reported by the News Agency RAPSI: MFTI otchislit studentov, sdavavshich EG za
stolichnych shkol'nikov [Moscow Physicaltechnical Institute Exmatriculates Students Who
Passed the EG for Pupils from the Capital], 28 June 2011, http://www.infosud.ru/incident_
news/20110628/253412428.html
Boris Kagarlitsky reported on 30June 2011 in his article Testing Russias Corruption Level for
the Moscow Times, that more than 300,000 users of the Vkontakte.ru web site were able to
view test questions that had been posted by students who took the exams several hours earlier in the Far East. In some regions, teachers and administrators simply handed students the
answers on the spot. Taking into account, that approximately 700.000 high-school graduates
took the tests, this number is quite high.
Gazeta.ru wrote about a director of a Test Centre for the EGE, who took the test for the daughter of a minister, Natal'ja Ziganshina: Direktor sdala EG za doch' ministra [Director Took the EGE
Instead of Ministers Daughter], 17June 2011, http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2011/06/16/3664065.
shtml; and TV Centre broadcasted on 8June 2011 a report about a corrupt civil servant from
the Ministry of education, who ordered which families have to pass the tests, V Adygee otsenki
po EG prodajutsja [In Adygea Results of the EGE Are Sold], http://beta.tvc.ru/ShowNews.
aspx?id=6a950e6d-90c1-4624-b549-5a7f054d0b18&date=30.10.2007, accessed 16July 2011.

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

181

9.1.3.2. The Independent External Testing in Ukraine


The Ukrainian admission system faced the same corruption problems as the Russian,
and already before the Orange Revolution the Ukrainian government had decided
to introduce new entrance exams.30 The main aim was to create conditions for equal
access to higher education and for the monitoring of the quality of education in
Ukraine.31 A small pilot project started in 2003, and three quarters of the students
who took the test believed that the external testing was more honest than the ordinary admission system.32
In contrast to Russia, in Ukraine the elaboration and implementation process
involved the domestic public, the media, NGOs and (Western) experts with experience in the introduction of External Testing to a much greater extent. Among others
the Soros Foundation, the Renaissance Foundation and USAID supported the initiative
in financial and expertise terms. Independent Ukrainian NGOs such as OPORA or the
Voters Committee of Ukraine helped to monitor the testing and to make them more
transparent and socially acceptable.
Finally, in 2008 under President Yushchenko the Independent External Testing or
ZNO (Zovnishne nezalezhne otsinyuvannya) became mandatory for all school graduates who wanted to enter university. The computer-based tests were the only admitted selection procedure, which could not be manipulated by corruption. As a consequence, in the school terms 2008 and 2009, corruption during university admissions
virtually disappeared. Despite several shortcomings of the new testing systemsome
scholars criticize that the multiple choice questionnaire does not measure the students
ability; others complain about incorrect questions the overall impression is that since
the independence of Ukraine, the Independent External Testing is the most effective, if
not the only, working anti-corruption reform.33 The USETI Alliance for the Development
of the Ukrainian Standardized Testing Initiative cites a survey from 2010, according to
which 82.9 per cent of pupils, and 77.8 per cent of parents believed totally or partially
30
31

32
33

USAID: The Ukrainian Standardized External Testing Initiative. Final Report (April 2007December
2009), http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACQ648.pdf
Buskey, Megan: Corruption and Reform in Yushchenkos Ukraine. A Case Study of the Effort
to Implement Standardized Testing in Ukrainian High Schools, Paper presented at the Third
Annual Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine, 1213 October 2007, here p.6,
http://www.ukrainianstudies.uottawa.ca/pdf/C_Popova_Danyliw07.pdf, accessed 16July 2011.
Ibid.
A sociological survey in 2010 concluded The number of students claiming that their parents did not have to resort to illegal (informal) activities to secure successful entry of their
children to higher education institutions increased from 66,7% to 82,7% compared to 2006.,
International Renaissance Foundation: Two Thirds of Students Consider a System of Independent
External Testing PromisingResults of the Survey, 16June 2010, http://www.irf.ua/index.
php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29887%3Atwo-thirds-of-students-consider-a-sys
tem-of-independent-external-testing-promising-results-of-the-survey&catid=83%3Anews-eduen&Itemid=68

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Eduard Klein

in the fairness of the External Testing.34 One reason for the high level of trust in the
new admission process is the fact that corruption has been tackled successfully. In
contrast to other post-Soviet countries where the introduction of similar testing systems did not diminish corruption, as in the case in Russia, the reform in Ukraine was
a real success story.
However, recent changes in the Ukrainian admission policy sound alarming:
Immediately after Dmytro Tabachnyk was elected Minister of Education, Science,
Sports and Youth in 2010, he diminished the role of the Independent External Testing
and reopened the doors for corruption.35 For example, he allowed universities to give
preferential treatment to applicants who attend fee-based preparatory courses at
their faculties. In 2008 and 2009 more students from rural areas than ever had been
able to enter one of the prestigious universities, indicating that knowledge and not
money and/or social ties were crucial for admissions. Since Tabachnyks modifications
it is again the children from wealthier families that have better access to universities
as they can afford the expensive courses.
According to OPORAs monitoring report36, the Ukrainian Independent External
Testing period in 2011 was, in contrast to Russia, free of corruption scandals. But due
to the changes in the admission regime, the test no longer being the only selection
criterion, there are concerns that future university admissions will be undermined by
corrupt practices again, which would be a step backwards.

9.2. Research Questions and Methodology


The primary research objective is the analysis and comparison of the effectiveness of
Standardized External Testing on corruption during the reformed admission process
in Russia and Ukraine. A comparative approach may be fruitful as we face a most similar case scenario with different outcomes: Both countries have a common history of
higher education and still a similar regulatory framework. They introduced analogous
Standardized External Testing reforms with seemingly significant different outcomes.
First evaluations indicate that Ukraines approach was more effective. Considering this,
the research is based on the following questions:

34
35

36

USETI.ORG: 83% of Pupils Trust External Testing Results, 22March 2010, http://www.useti.org.
ua/en/news/555/83-of-pupils-trust-external-testing-results.html
International Renaissance Foundation: Ministry of Education Is Warned about Corruption Risks
due to Diminishing of the Role of External Independent Assessment, 20April 2011, http://www.
irf.ua/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32691%3Aministry-of-education-iswarned-about-corruption-risks-due-to-diminishing-of-the-role-of-external-independent-ass
essment&catid=83%3Anews-edu-en&Itemid=68
OPORA Website: The Final Report of OPORA about the Results of Public Observation During
EIT-2011, http://www.opora.org.ua/en/education/article/1079--2011, accessed 10January 2012.

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

183

1.

How can academic corruption in Russia and Ukraine be defined and described?
What are the causes for corruption in the admission process?
2. What are reliable first results of the reforms in both countries? Does corruption
decrease or does it only shift to other spheres of the education sector, e.g. at
school level? (Why) Is Ukraines attempt more successful? (How) Can the current
admission regime be optimized? Are there still vulnerabilities and loopholes for
corruption?
3. How can corruption during university admissions be reduced? Which measures
are effective? Are Standardized External Testings an adequate solution for the
problem?
These questions can only be answered on the basis of a profound understanding of
the specifics of academic corruption. It needs to be shown in detail how corruption in
the admission process worked before the reforms and how it functions today.
In order to make up for the lack of qualitative empirical data concerning corruption
in Russian and Ukrainian HEIs, the author carries out an empirical survey in both countries. Between May and June 2011 44 interviews were conducted with students, teachers, and experts on corruption. 23 interviews were recorded in Russia (St. Petersburg
and Moscow) and 27 in Ukraine (Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, and Odessa). As corruption
is a sensitive topic, access to interviewees was sometimes difficult. People are usually
not interested in the disclosure of their corrupt practices. However, the interview data
provides a detailed overview about the outcome of the reform and the current state
of corruption during admissions in both countries.
The data collection is based on Andreas Witzels approach of problem-centred
interviews.37 This model allows for the reconstruction of social or biographical issues
from an individual perspective. The focus is on the respondents attitudes, actions
and interpretations. The interviewees, divided into several target groups: four students, three journalists, five lecturers, two teachers, three experts on corruption and
six experts, on higher education, were interviewed in Russia. In Ukraine it was possible to talk to eleven students, two lecturers, one university rector, nine experts on
higher education and four experts on corruption.
Specific semi-structured guidelines were created for each group. The students
and faculty members were primarily asked about their attitudes towards corruption
and about their personal experiences concerning corrupt practices during admissions.
The questions for the experts were rather aimed at explaining the reforms and at the
description of the social and structural context of academic corruption.
37

Witzel, Andreas: The Problem-Centered Interview, in: Forum. Qualitative Social Research
(Online Journal), 2000 (vol.1), no.1, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/arti
cle/view/1132; Witzel, Andreas: Auswertung problemzentrierter Interviews. Grundlagen und
Erfahrungen, in: Strobl, Rainer / Bttger, Andreas (eds.): Wahre Geschichten, Baden-Baden:
Nomos, 1996, pp.4975.

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Unfortunately, two main target groups have not been interviewed yet: school
graduates and parents (important, since they are usually the bribe-givers). Both groups
will be interviewed in a second round during the 2012 exams session.
For the transcription of the interviews the simple method from Dresing & Pehl38
is used. It focuses on the content of the interviewees responses. The qualitative data
analysis is to be accomplished with the help of MAXQDA, a computer-aided tool for
the systematic evaluation and interpretation of texts. With MAXQDA the interview
data can be thematically categorized and encoded easily. On the basis of the codes the
theoretical model and the hypotheses can be tested. Finally, the results will be interpreted in the context of other researches and empirical studies close to the subject.
Furthermore, a corpus of 28 interviews conducted in Russia exists for the M.A. thesis Education Corruption at Russian Universities39. The interviews were recorded in
February and March 2009. Although they do not cover Ukraine and their main focus
was not on the admission process, they still provide useful information on the issue.
For example, some interviewees pointed out typical forms of corruption during admissions, before the EGE was implemented.
Finally, the findings of the research will be compared with existing (representative) surveys. An analysis of the qualitative data in the context of quantitative studies,
known as the triangulation of methods40, serves mainly to counter-check the plausibility and consistency of the results.

9.3. Theoretical Framework


The research project is based on the theory of informal institutions.41 Informal institutions are socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated,
and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels.42 Douglass North43 describes
them as the rules of the game in a society. They coexist with formal institutionscon38
39
40
41

42
43

Dresing, Thorsten / Pehl, Thorsten: Praxisbuch Transkription. Regelsysteme, Software und praktische Anleitungen fr qualitative ForscherInnen, Marburg, 2011, pp.1519, www.audiotran
skription.de/praxisbuch
Klein, Eduard: Korruption im russischen Hochschulwesen, Arbeitspapiere und Materialien der
Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Bremen, no.108, July 2010, http://www.forschungsstelle.unibremen.de/images/stories/pdf/ap/fsoap108.pdf
Flick, Uwe: Triangulation. Eine Einfhrung, Wiesbaden: Verlag fr Sozialwissenschaften, 2008.
ODonnell, Guillermo: Illusions about Consolidation, in: Journal of Democracy, 1996 (vol.7), no.2,
pp.3451; Helmke, Gretchen / Levitsky, Stephen: Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics.
AResearch Agenda, in: Perspectives on Politics, 2004 (vol.2), no.4, pp.725740; North, Douglas C.:
Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1990.
Helmke, Gretchen / Levitsky, Stephen: Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics. A Research
Agenda, in: Perspectives on Politics, 2004 (vol.2), no.4, pp.725740, here p.727.
North, Douglass C.: Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990.

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

185

stitutions, laws, regulations, decrees etc.and to a considerable extent shape social


interaction. Informal institutions exist in all societies, but the relation between them
and formal institutions varies widely: While in most western societies official social
interactions are usually based on the designated formal procedures, in post-Soviet
societies informal practises like clientelism44, corruption45 or blat46, which existed to
a wide extent under the Soviet system and were socialized under the conditions of
the transition period, play an important role. Corruption is a subcategory of informal
institutions.
In the context of this work corruption is defined as the abuse of entrusted power
for private gain47. The research on corruption offers different theoretical frameworks.
Models from criminology48, psychology49, sociology50, economics51, the theory of governance52 and the political sciences53 compete with each other.
An orientation towards the political sciences narrows the choice of models to
three approaches:
1. normative/traditional
2. functionalist
3. rational-choice
44

45
46

47
48
49
50
51
52
53

Lauth, Hans-Joachim: Informelle Institutionen politischer Partizipation und ihre demokratietheoretische Bedeutung. Klientelismus, Korruption, Putschdrohung und ziviler Widerstand, in:
Lauth, Hans-Joachim / Liebert, Ulrike (eds.): Im Schatten demokratischer Legitimitt. Informelle
Institutionen und politische Partizipation im interkulturellen Demokratievergleich, Wiesbaden:
Opladen, 1999, pp.6184.
Levin, Mark / Satarov, Georgy: Corruption and Institutions in Russia, in: European Journal of
Political Economy, 2000 (vol.16), no.1, pp.113132.
The Russian term blat means reciprocal exchanges within informal networks which were
used to gain personal advantage. See Ledeneva, Alena V.: Russias Economy of Favours. Blat,
Networking and Informal Exchange, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; How Russia
Really Works. The Informal Practice That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business, Ithaca /
London: Cornell University Press, 2006.
Transparency International: Frequently Asked Questions about Corruption, in: Transparency
International Online, http://www.transparency.org/news_room/faq/corruption_faq, accessed
17July 2011.
Bannenberg, Britta: Korruption in Deutschland. Ergebnisse einer kriminologisch-strafrechtlichen
Untersuchung, in: von Arnim, Hans-Herbert (ed.): Korruption. Netzwerke in Politik, mtern und
Wirtschaft, Munich: Droemer Knaur, 2003, pp.204234.
Richter, Horst-Eberhard: Die hohe Kunst der Korruption. Erkenntnisse eines Politik-Beraters,
Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1989.
Luhmann, Niklas: Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik. Studien zur Wissenssoziologie der modernen Gesellschaft, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1999; Hffling, Christian: Korruption als soziale
Beziehung, Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 2002.
Shleifer, Andrei / Vishny, Robert W.: Corruption, in: Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1993 (vol.108),
no.3, pp.599617.
Homann, Karl: Unternehmensethik und Korruption, in: Zeitschrift fr Betriebswirtschaftliche
Forschung, 1997 (vol.49), no.3, pp.187209.
von Alemann, Ulrich / Kleinfeld, Ralf: Begriff und Bedeutung der politischen Korruption aus politikwissenschaftlicher Sicht, in: Benz, Arthur / Seibel, Wolfgang (eds.): Zwischen Kooperation und
Korruption. Abweichendes Verhalten in der Verwaltung, Baden Baden: Nomos, 1992, pp.259282.

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According to the normative or traditional approach, represented among others by Carl


J. Friedrich54, corruption is a lack of political culture, a kind of moral disease which
leads to the decay of normative values: Corruption is a kind of behaviour which deviates from the norm actually prevalent or believed to be prevail in a given context, such
as the political.55 The normative approach prioritizes the mere description of behaviour, neglecting the motives and reasons for corrupt behaviour. It is therefore not adequate for our purposes and will not be further considered.
Functionalist models stress the positive functions of corruption. Corruption is
primarily defined by its ability to improve the performance of inflexible formal rules.
Corruption can and does have numerous consequences that are anything but evil
providing welfare services for disadvantaged citizens that otherwise would be without them.56 It is true that corruption can smooth rigid procedures and be functional
to a certain extentbut this does not suit the researchs focus on the admission process, which was specifically redesigned to prevent corruption.
Recent studies on corruption have been increasingly based on rational-choice
models.57 These provide a value-free assessment of corruption and prioritize the examination of its causes. Hence they serve as a fruitful theoretical framework for research
on the motives and causes of corruption and the development of countermeasures.
Table 9-3:

Political Science Approaches and their Assessment of Corruption


Approach

Assessment of Corruption

Normative/traditional
approach
Functionalist approach

Negative

Rational Choice approach

Value-free

Rather positive

Focus on
Continuous monitoring of
corruption
Consequences of corruption
(ex-post)
Causes of corruption (ex-ante)

Source: Hltge, Kristin: Governance in Transition. What Makes Georgias Higher Education System so
Corrupt?, in: Lanzendorff, Ute: Georgiens Hochschulsektor. Zwischen sowjetischer Tradition und globalisierter
Moderne, Kassel: Kassel University Press, 2008, pp.61128, here p.69.

54
55
56

57

Friedrich, Carl J.: Corruption Concepts in Historical Perspective, in: Heidenheimer, Arnold J. /
Johnston, Michael (eds.): Political Corruption. Concepts & Contexts, New Brundwick: Transaction
Publishers, 2001, pp. 1524.
Ibid., here p.15.
Smelser, Neil J., quoted in: Hltge, Kristin: Governance in Transition. What Makes Georgias Higher
Education System so Corrupt?, in: Lanzendorff, Ute: Georgiens Hochschulsektor. Zwischen sowjetischer Tradition und globalisierter Moderne, Kassel: Kassel University Press, 2008, pp.61128,
here p.68.
Dietz, Markus: Korruption eine institutionenkonomische Analyse, Berlin: Berlin Verlag, 1998.

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

9.3.1.

187

The PrincipalAgentClient Model of Corruption

Within the field of rational-choice-based research on corruption the stakeholder-specific principalagentclient model (PAC), originally developed by Susan Rose-Ackerman,
has proved to be the most suitable.58 She defines corruption as an exchange of goods
between three participating actorsthe principal/superior, the agent and a third person:
While superiors would like agents always to fulfil the superiors objectives, monitoring is
costly, and agents will generally have some freedom to put their own interests ahead of
their principals. Here is where the money enters. Some third person, who can benefit by
the agents action, seek to influence the agents decision by offering him a monetary payment which is not passed on to the principal.59

Robert R. Klitgaard expanded upon Rose-Ackermans model.60 His theory involves the
same actors changing their names only slightlythe third person is now called a client. Klitgaards principal is defined as the head of an institution who is supposed to
embody the public interest. He employs several agents who are to act on his behalf
when dealing with clients. An agent might not only serve public interests but also be
tempted to misuse his position in order to pursue his/her private interests.
The following example illustrates how Klitgaards PAC-model can be transferred
to the pre-reform admission system:
The agent may be a teacher or admission committee member, who works for the
principalin this case the university rector. A student or their parentswho take the
role of the client in our modelare willing to make informal payments to influence
the results of the admission committee. They offer money or gifts to the teacher in
exchange for guaranteed admission. The teacher, who has to decide whether or not
to act corruptly, makes the following considerations:
If I am not corrupt, I get my pay and the moral satisfaction of not being a corrupt person.
If I am corrupt, I get the bribe but pay a moral cost. There is also some chance I will be
caught and punished, in which case I will also pay a penalty, and lose my pay.
So, I will be corrupt if: the bribe minus the moral cost minus [(the probability I am caught
and punished) times (the penalty for being corrupt)] is greater than my pay plus the satisfaction I get from not being corrupt.61

If they, the teacher, refuse the clients offer, they save their professional position and
salary furthermore they receive moral satisfaction for such exemplary behaviour. At
the same time they abandon the opportunity to receive extra payment. If the teacher
chooses the informal path, they make a considerable profit but risk being caught and
punished and experiencing feelings of guilt in the light of their moral failure. Such a
58
59
60
61

Rose-Ackerman, Susan: Corruption. A Study in Political Economy, New York et al.: Academic
Press, 1978.
Ibid., p.6.
Klitgaard, Robert E.: Controlling Corruption, Berkeley et al.: University of California Press, 1991.
Klitgaard, Robert E.: Controlling Corruption, Berkeley et al: University of California Press, 1991,
p.70.

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Eduard Klein

decision is based on the calculation of the risks, costs and likely benefits. Therefore,
the teacher will act corruptly if they come to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the risks and cost.
On the basis of this model the following determinants affect the teachers decision-making:

The sum of the bribe: The higher the bribe, the greater the likelihood of corruption.

The salary of the agent: The lower the salary, the more attractive an extra-income
would be.

The moral attitude of the agent: The fewer objections to corruption, the greater
the likelihood of corruption.

The risk of being caught: The smaller the risk, the higher the likelihood of corruption.

The strictness of the sanctions: The less strict the sanctions, the greater the likelihood of corruption.
A student or their parent who offer the teacher a bribe must have made similar considerations before the decision for the informal path. After weighting the personal costs
and likely benefits they came to the conclusion that guaranteed enrolment outweighs
the payment, the sense of guilt and the potential hazard. The decision-making is also
affected by the determinants named above, the only difference being the sum of the
bribe: The lower the bribe, the greater the likelihood of corruption.
Due to economic, historical, and socio-cultural reasons, informal institutions in
Russia and Ukraine have become more institutionalized than in many western countries.
In addition to economic and political corruption, everyday corruption has expanded
considerably and is now present in nearly all social subsystems. Corruption is no longer
seen as deviant or immoral behaviour by particular individuals but rather as a common daily routine. Obviously the moral costs of corruption only play a subordinate
part in the social conscience of corrupt agents or clients. According to Klitgaard, the
moral costs of corruption can be even zero, if actors operate within a completely corrupt environment.62 Given the ubiquity of corrupt structures in Russia and Ukraine,
this might explain the social assessment and moral acceptance of corrupt behaviour.
Higher education in Russia and Ukraine is seriously affected by corruption. At
some universities, corrupt transactions take place in public, as demonstrated by the
case of price lists, which are handed out to classrooms. This leads to the conclusion,
that fears of sanctions are minimal. Indeed, the risk of being caught and penalized is
relatively modest. Students in particular usually do not have to fear severe sanctions.
Regarding the relatively low wages for employees in the Russian and Ukrainian
education sector, which are usually below the average income, bribes of several thousand Euros or Dollars are a considerable profit. On the other hand, these sums are

62

Ibid., p.69.

9. Academic Corruption and Reform in Russia and Ukraine

189

affordable for the growing middle class, which is known for its spending money to
secure their childrens future.
Apparently, before the implementation of the External Testing reform the basic
conditions favoured corrupt behaviour:
5. Teachers salaries were usually low and below average.
6. The amount of the bribes assured an appealing extra salary for teachers. Yet, the
sum was still affordable for the majority of students/parents.
7. The moral objections to corruption were weak.
8. The risk of being caught and penalized for academic corruption was minimal.
9. Sanctioning mechanisms were ineffective.
Therefore the general likelihood of corruption during admissions in Russia and Ukraine
was very high.
Finally, Klitgaards model offers a catalogue of anti-corruption measures. His
Generic Policies for Reducing Corruption include: a) selecting agents, b) changing
rewards and penalties, c) gathering information, d) restructuring the principalagent
client relationship and e) changing attitudes about corruption. The university admission reforms in both countries will be analyzed and compared with regards to these
recommendations.

9.4. Conclusion
In the post-Soviet states academic corruption became pervasive during the transition
period in the 1990s, and did not disappear in the last decade of consolidation, but even
grew. Several states, among them Russia and Ukraine, developed reforms to reduce
corruption during admissions. The reforms show different results: While it seems that
Ukraine could cope with the problem and managed to reduce corruption, this is not
the case in Russia, which failed in this respect.
Klitgaards PAC theory serves as a consistent explanatory framework for the causes
of academic corruption in the post-Soviet space. It also provides adequate solution
mechanisms to reduce corruption. An analysis will show to which extent these mechanisms were applied in the reform process in both countries. The assumption is that
Ukraines success can be explained by a better implementation of Klitgaards anti-corruption measures.
Apart from this conclusion, another plausible explanation for more effective reform
results in Ukraine can be drawn from their governance-oriented approach, which differs in some key aspects from Russias government-oriented path63. While governancebased approaches include actors such as the media, civil society and foreign experts as
63

Von Blumenthal, Julia / Brchler, Stephan (eds.): Von Government zu Governance. Analysen
zum Regieren im modernen Staat, Hamburg: LIT Verlag, 2006.

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equitable partners in the reform process, government methods favour rather hierarchical and vertical topbottom mechanisms, in which reforms are directed from above.
The interview data reveals, that in Ukraine local media, NGOs, foreign specialists and
the public (e.g. through information campaigns) participated actively in the elaboration and implementation of the reform. In Russia it was carried out like most political reforms: mainly designed by bureaucrats, without the consultation or inclusion of
experts, NGOs or the public. This might be a main reason why the reform of the admission system in Russia led to new forms of corruption and mistrust, while it reduced
corruption and generated trust in Ukraine.