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Murky dealings abound in Balkan academia

Posted on behalf of Mico Tatalovic

Two recent reports have shown that corruption remains a major problem in Balkan universities.

A four-year study by the Belgrade Open School’s Center for Development of Education on corruption at Serbia’s biggest university, the University of Belgrade, found rampant corruption, non-compliance with regulations and a lack of ethical procedures. Examples include students paying for a place at university; professors giving better grades to students who buy books from them or attend their private, paid-for, tutorials; and students having to pay for lab equipment that breaks during practical work.

Igor Pucarević, project manager at the centre, said at a press conference: “The problem of corruption in higher education is not a problem of a single faculty, professor or student. All faculties and universities in Serbia have a common denominator – a lack of respect for existing regulations and the non-existence of [formal ethical] guidelines. That allows them to transgress academic ethics without facing any consequences.”

Žarko Obradović, Serbia’s science and education minister, laid part of the blame on the academic community: “Everyone wants improvement, but no-one wants to obey the new rules [set out in recent education laws].”

Meanwhile, Croatia’s national revision office’s report on university finances for 2009 found that the country’s universities are breaking a series of laws and regulations when managing their finances.

Investing public money into risky investment funds, enrolling more students than they have the capacity for, and charging students who should have studied for free are just some of the improper activities highlighted.

Others included paying PhD salary bonuses to employees without a PhD; paying bonuses for ‘success’ without having criteria for what success means; paying out intellectual property rights fees for goods that do not have any IP rights attached; and paying medical teaching staff double salaries.

Most of the universities’ income – just over 72% – comes from the government, but the extra money from student fees and consultancy projects for industry often ends up in the pockets of those who lead those projects, the report says.

Overall, only 19 out 92 higher education institutions had their finances in order.


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