Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme: Political Corruption of Russian Doctorates

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme: Political Corruption of Russian Doctorates

Article excerpt

Politicians and other popular figures traditionally deploy verbal distinctions, high visibility, and publicity in an attempt to attract the public's attention and the votes of the electorate. The reputations of these public figures are often based on their entourage, decorations, titles, and high academic degrees. Historically, societal elites sought distinctions through music, poetry, clothing, bravery in battle, and so on. In China, yellow dye for clothing was exclusively reserved for the members of the Emperor's family. In France, carrying long swords was an exclusive right of nobles. In Russia, members of the Boyarskaya Duma had long beards and large stomachs; those without large stomachs used pillows to fit the profile. These are only a few charismatic examples in which elites possessed external and visible attributes of power. This article focuses on the process of politicians corrupting doctoral education by nefariously acquiring doctoral degrees. It uses the example of the Russian political establishment to analyze the issue of corruption in conferring doctorates. The article establishes the fact of corruption in Russian doctoral education based on the media reports, expert opinions, and data regarding the dynamics and structure of dissertations defended in Russia. It points to the practice of the conferral of doctoral degrees in exchange for illicit benefits. It develops an earlier-introduced theory of elites in order to explain how Russian politicians corrupt the country's currently existing system of doctoral education. In order to present the evidence in support of this theory, we consider the supply of dissertations for sale, the demand for doctorates, favorable conditions for such a business, and the context in which this business takes place. We consider these components according to the principle of measuring clandestine processes based on input and output. The evidence collected includes the data on firms that offer dissertations for sale and the number of leading politicians that hold doctorates. We also use data from opinion-polls conducted among scholars regarding the dissertations for sale.

The Problem of Corruption in Doctoral Education

The definition of education corruption includes the abuse of authority for material gain and is broadly defined as the abuse or misuse of public office or public trust for personal or private gain.1 Education is an important public good, and because of this the definition of education corruption should include the abuse of authority for personal as well as material advancement.2 University corruption takes place in both developing and developed countries.3 Corruption in higher education may be defined as a system of informal relations established to regulate unsanctioned access to material and nonmaterial assets through abuse of the office of public or corporate trust.4 Conferring doctoral degrees based on criteria other than academic merit may be considered corrupt. These include private donations, promise of material and nonmaterial benefits, favorable political decisions, or threat of use of political power against the granting body. In the centralized educational systems, obtaining a doctoral degree in exchange for money or other benefits constitutes the abuse of public trust. Furthermore, in the case of politicians, the exertion of powers given by the people in order to receive a doctorate constitutes the abuse of public office. Thus, corruption in conferring doctoral degrees to politicians anticipates abuse of public office on both sides of this illicit bargain.

University professors, including those who are members of the special academic boards5-later renamed dissertation boards6-abuse their office by conferring a doctoral degree on a basis other than the academic merit of the candidate. They either ignore the poor quality of the dissertation or do not take enough precautionary and controlling measures to assure that the dissertation submitted for the degree is written by the candidate and not by a hired ghostwriter. …

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