Political Graft and Education Corruption in Ukraine: Compliance, Collusion, and Control

By Osipian, Ararat L. | Demokratizatsiya, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview
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Political Graft and Education Corruption in Ukraine: Compliance, Collusion, and Control

Osipian, Ararat L., Demokratizatsiya

Abstract: In this article, the author considers corruption in higher education in Ukraine, including such aspects as corruption in admissions to higher education institutions, corruption in the academic process of teaching and learning, and corruption in administering the newly introduced standardized test for high school graduates. The author builds a grounded theory that explains the issues of compliance, collusion, and control. This theory is based on the idea of governmental control over corrupt higher education institutions. It implies a spillover of political graft in the academy, which facilitates educational corruption and suggests that the state may encourage the institutionally based culture of corruption in higher education. The author presents the implications of the current regime's actions in the context of the educational reform taking place in Ukrainian higher education and argues that the ruling regime is interested in breeding corruption in academia to sustain its existence.

Keywords: bribery, corruption, graft, higher education, reform, Ukraine


Corruption is a growing problem throughout the world. According to some estimates, countries with transition economies are the most corrupt. Transparency International and World Bank surveys both show that Ukraine is an especially corrupt country. (1) According to the corruption perceptions index (CPI) that Transparency International calculates annually, Ukraine ranked 83rd out of the 91 countries surveyed in 2001. (2) In 2006, Ukraine was given a score of 2.8, making it 99th out of 163 countries. (3)

A number of scholarly publications and national surveys in Ukraine confirmed that corruption is a problem. For instance, a 2002 Ukrainian Institute of Social Research poll showed that 78 percent of respondents believed that all or most government officials have accepted bribes. More than 80 percent stated that corruption was prevalent within the judicial branch of the government, and 71 percent believed that most government officials were tied to the mafia or private family business relations. Moreover, a good portion of Ukrainians are inclined to accept bribery as a normal part of everyday life. (4) Peter Solomon and Todd Foglesong note that the number of reported corruption-related incidents in Ukraine rose 250 percent between 1990 and 1998. By 1998, there were 2,449 incidents, which led to 1,641 convictions. (5) According to the data presented by the Civil Organization Committee against Corruption and Organized Crime, the number of reports of corruption sent to court by Ukranian law enforcement agencies for trial increased from 5,862 in 2006 to 5,994 in 2007. (6)

Corruption may be found in many sectors of the national economy, including higher education. Corruption in education is more detrimental than typical bureaucratic corruption. Corruption in higher education is detrimental to society for three major reasons: (1) it has a negative impact on the economy and society because it hinders the system's efficiency; (2) it hurts society by negatively affecting educational programs; and (3) it diminishes social cohesion, because students learn corrupt practices. Corruption in higher education negatively affects access to higher education, quality of higher education services, and equity. The development of a substantial private sector in higher education has led to increased corruption. Private higher education institutions are as corrupt as their public counterparts, proving that people other than public officials are susceptible to corruption.

Corruption in Higher Education

There are 680,000 licensed openings (and no unlicensed openings) for freshmen in approximately 480 higher education institutions in Ukraine, 80 percent of which are in public higher education institutions and 20 percent are in private institutions. There are also numerous public community colleges and vocational schools.

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Political Graft and Education Corruption in Ukraine: Compliance, Collusion, and Control


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