Kazakhstan Puts a Figure on Corruption in Universities
In many post-Soviet countries, and Kazakhstan is no exception, stories abound of students forced to bribe their professors to pass final exams. At last, Kazakhstan has an official figure: On average, students pay 50,000 tenge ($275) in unofficial fees at the end of each semesterDeputy Minister of Education and Science Takir Balykbaev told a meeting of the country's university heads in Almaty on April 29 that higher education is among the three most corrupt industries in the country. The sector’s shadow economy is worth about $100 million per year, Balykbaev said. Endemic corruption in education has long been acknowledged in Kazakhstan, but actual figures are rare. Freedom House said in its 2013 report on Kazakhstan that “corruption in the education system is widespread, and students frequently bribe professors for passing grades.” Salaries in Kazakhstan's universities are low, with the exception of Astana's Nazarbayev University and Almaty's KIMEP University, encouraging professors to supplement their incomes by soliciting bribes.Balykbaev said that in the near future his ministry would establish a council on anti-corruption policy to coordinate the fight against graft in universities.Corruption plagues almost every industry in Kazakhstan, despite regular government initiatives promising to counter the problem. Watchdog Transparency International ranks Kazakhstan 140 out of 177 countries on its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. On April 23, Transparency International's Kazakhstan affiliate opened an Anti-Corruption School in Almaty. Operated in conjunction with Kazakhstan's Financial Police, the school offers seven-day courses to train students to combat corruption in their own universities.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.