Passing exams is a real gift

A student poll backed by Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman has identified the three most corrupt universities in the country and has revealed a cash-for-results culture among academics.

Ombudsman Tursunbay Bakir uulu sponsored the poll to try to to quantify corruption in universities and the prevalence of its various forms. He announced the findings on Kyrgyz television, and submitted them to parliament with a proposal for reform.

Although many students had been afraid of admitting to corruption in their universities, the ombudsman declared that the results were "valid". He claimed that the three most corrupt establishments according to the poll were Osh State University, Bishkek Humanities University and Batken State University.

Out of the 520 students polled, 0 (54 per cent) admitted to having given professors and lecturers sweeteners to ensure receiving good marks. Most academics preferred cash, students said, though some were prepared to accept books, computers or other "gifts".

Five per cent of students said some lecturers required them to carry out household chores, 3 per cent said the lecturers preferred to be entertained at expensive restaurants, cafes and saunas. Three per cent said some lecturers demanded sex from them.

But, the ombudsman said, most students did not blame the academics. Only 54 respondents considered that their teachers were acting dishonestly, 203 said it was due to low salaries, and 261 said it was students who were responsible: they wanted to pass their exams, they offered bribes and the academics "had got used to it".

The ombudsman said the key to reform lay in changing the way rectors were appointed. At present, they are elected by a few staff and student representatives, and a dishonest candidate can easily purchase the votes.

If the vote were extended to the entire academic body, the cost of buying sufficient votes would become prohibitive.

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