Balkan countries take on academic corruption and crime

by Limbic on September 23, 2008

Two heartening reports this week suggest that the authorities in the Balkans are taking on the endemic practice of academic production, the practice of students having having to pay professors – with sex or money – to pass exams.

In Croatia, SE Times reports “Police arrest 21 university professors in corruption probe”:

In their biggest anticorruption sting ever, Croatian police have detained and questioned more than 100 people connected to a bribery scandal at Zagreb University. Among those detained are 21 university professors from the economy, law and transportation departments. The raid reportedly followed more than a year of preparations, during which secret agents posed as students and authorities conducted surveillance of teachers suspected of corrupt activities.

Among them was Desa Mlikotin Tomic, an economics professor who also chairs parliament’s committee tasked with preventing and resolving conflicts of interest. She was sent home after her interrogation, but it is unclear if she will keep her post.

The police action strikes at the heart of what many say is a common practice of paying teachers in exchange for academic privileges. According to media reports, corrupt teachers charge as much as 9,000 euros to register unqualified students, then as much as 2,000 euros to give them passing marks on exams.

Academic bribery, the reports say, has become a well-developed business with its own rules and procedures. For example, students do not approach professors directly but have to work through an intermediary.

“Those who are rich do not have to worry; those who are poor, they have to study!” a professor was reportedly caught saying. Officials in the university departments involved in the scandal have promised that all bad diplomas will be annulled.

One of Croatia’s most controversial figures, retired General Vladimir Zagorec, may be affected. The former associate of Franjo Tudjman received a diploma in traffic engineering from Zagreb University’s Transport Department, successfully passing four exams and submitting his final thesis in a week’s time. Now his diploma will be investigated in detail along with thousands of others. [Source]

Meanwhile in Bosnia police have busted a prostitution ring involving female students, also linked to corruption, “Prostitution Claims Shake Bosnia University”:

Sarajevo: Two female students were arrested, questioned and then released as police probe an apparent sex and corruption ring at a Bosnian law faculty.

Police are probing the case at Sarajevo’s Law Faculty and its branch in the northern town of Tuzla.The two girls were questioned by Tuzla police under suspicion of enticing prostitution and giving false statements. Meanwhile the Tuzla special police team is continuing to investigate the key suspect, a driver for Tuzla canton’s government Jasmin Masic. He was arrested on September 11 and will remain in detention for a month, pending the start of criminal procedures against him, local media reported over the weekend.

Media also reported that three professors and the dean of the Sarajevo Law Faculty will also be questioned in relation to this case.

The scandal started when police arrested Masic under suspicion of enticing and organising a prostitution ring which included several women, citizens of Bosnia as well as other countries in the region. The investigation showed that Masic, who was driving Sarajevo law professors to lectures and exams they held in Tuzla and back, enticed girls, women – apparently both prostitutes and female students – to have sex with professors. He also arranged gifts and money transfers for the professors so the students would pass their exams. Media reported that an anonymous call to Tuzla Canton’s anti-corruption hotline tipped off the existence of the ring two weeks ago.

Back then the accused professors rebuffed any accusations and no investigation was launched. [Source]

In Serbia this disgusting practice is rife in some regional universities, but thankfully even there it is contained to only some departments. Reforms introduced under the Bologna Process should help fight the problem.

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