What You Didn’t Know About Corruption in Higher Education

Corruption in higher education. You may have heard of it, but did you know it is a global problem? Yes, global.

Educational corruption can happen anywhere – from the undergraduate to the graduate level. Corruption includes plagiarism, degree mills, bribery, embezzlement, inconsistent hiring practices, and fraud.

International Corruption

Examples of academic corruption include these countries:

Pakistan: “Shadow schools” are funded by public money and don’t have any real students.

Areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia: Even with free education, some schools require parents to pay a fee for their kids to go to school.

Tanzania:  More than one-third of funding failed to reach 180 schools.

Greece: Nepotism is increasing in higher education jobs and promotions.

US: Problems concerning academic commercialism arise when private industries (pharmaceuticals, technology) influence the research process. Corporations fund researcher projects and pay faculty to consult and join scientific advisory boards.

Why Corruption Remains Hidden

Many people are unaware of corruption in higher education. And other chose to ignore it and for now, corruption remains hidden in many institutions.

Corruption remains hidden is because:

  • There is no oversight or quality assurance agency to monitor corrupt practices.
  • Online education can easily attract corrupt practices.
  • Cultural variation between countries makes academic corruption hard to
    identify and eliminate.
  • Corruption has existed for a long time but there is no framework to address academic corruption.
  • There is no baseline research to identify ways to increase academic integrity and reduce corruption in higher education.


A wake up call is spreading the word about the hidden challenges in higher education. For instance, a small community of quality assurance (QA) groups are developing processes to reduce academic corruption around the world.

A network of QA agencies include the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning and the International Quality Group of the US Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

The advisory committee for these groups identified academic corruption as the “contemporary challenge for the quality and credibility of higher education”.

UNESCO and CHEA will focus on best practices for academic honesty to limit corruption in all its forms. They will make presentations at meetings and conferences and spread the word through a series of webinars on a range of topics: academic plagiarism, nepotism, bribery, and fraud.

Sources: Seeking global cooperation to fight corruption in HE

Corruption and bribery in the classroom

University Inc.—The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education


Dr. Bessie

Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.
~~~Adlai Stevenson~~~



Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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