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Final exams for $60: Corruption at Kazakhstani Universities

15 september 2014, 23:00
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Photo © tengrinews
Photo © tengrinews

Corruption in Kazakhstani universities has never been a mythical evil. In fact, it seems corruption alarmingly turned into an everyday routine.

Anti-corruption project STOPKylmys (StopCorruption) initiated by the youth wings of Zhas Otan and Nur Otan political parties has reported the results of its anonymous survey among Kazakhstani students. The executive secretary of the Zhas Otan youth wing Nurlan Sydykov reported an unofficial price list for illegal services in Kazakhstani universities, Tengrinews reports.

“For example, in one university a student can get a pass for $65, while in another university this sum is enough to pass all final exams. To pass all final exams in average costs around $160. Passing one class costs around $30. In average, a course paper costs $70. The cheapest ones cost from $15. A thesis costs in $330. The cheapest thesis costs $165,” Sydykov said at the anti-corruption meeting.

Corruption at universities does not only concern academics, it also affects dorm and scholarship applications. In average, it costs around $80 for a student to get a dorm room. A scholarship ranges from $550 to $2750, depending on the region. An admission to a military science department would require a student to pay $2750. In Kazakhstan military conscription in compulsory. An admission to a military science department gives certain benefits for soon-to-be conscripts. 

“The reasons for corruption at universities are lack of interest for education among students (20.8%), lack of control (18.3%), low salaries among faculty and staff (17.3%) and low level of professionalism (12.6%). 90% of respondents say that students see corruption as a normal thing,” Sydykov added.

Corruption usually peaks during exams, thesis or course paper defense or during attendance assessment. Corruption is facilitated i.e. money is transferred from a student to an instructor through group leaders, fellow students and other instructors.

Zhas Otan youth wing suggested introducing annual licensing of the teaching staff and creating online portals for universities to record attendance and participation of students online and available for monitoring.

1200 students from 62 universities took part in the survey. The average age of respondents is 20 years. 93.4% of the participants are undergraduate students. 5.2% participants are post-graduate students and 1.4% are doctorate students. 40% of the surveyed students are on scholarship.

In response, the Vice Minister of Education and Science Takhir Balykbayev emphasized that the heads of the universities would be responsible for corruption in their respective educational institutions. “We want to conduct the first meeting of the coordination council this week. We demand the heads of the educational institution to take responsibility for corruption personally. In case corruption does no cease in a particular university, then we would consider employment termination of such a director. Even if it is a single case... It will be up to the head of the university to try to prove that his faculty and stuff do not take bribes or stop such things altogether,” Balykbayev said.

If the state can respond to disproportionately low salaries among faculty and staff at Kazakhstani universities, then what can be done in regards to disinterest and detachment of students from the education process? This issue seems to be deeply embedded into the consciousness of university students in Kazakhstan. Does it require a change in mentality as a whole? Or does it relate to university curriculum? It seems that the problem of corruption is far more complex and requires a considerable amount of cooperative work on behalf of universities, student bodies and the state.   

Reported by Assemgul Khassenova. Writing by Gyuzel Kamalova


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