domingo, outubro 17, 2004

Degrees for sale

Degrees for sale: corruption scandal engulfs Russia's leading university

The rector of one of Moscow's most prestigious universities has been accused of handing out degrees in exchange for bribes in a scandal that has offered a rare insight into Russia's corruption-riddled education system.

Tatyana Kiseleva, 63, rector of the Moscow State University of Culture and the Arts, is alleged to have handed out 130 "false" law degrees between 2001 and 2004 in exchange for bribes worth £300,000. The authorities, who have opened a criminal case against Ms Kiseleva, claim the university does not even have the right to hand out jurisprudence degrees and say the awards in question could be annulled.

Ms Kiseleva protests her innocence while her colleagues maintain that the authorities have a vendetta against her because of an unrelated land dispute. But the scandal has highlighted an all too common practice in Russia; the purchase of qualifications, grades and university places. Experts say that many academics have no other choice.

Once the toast of the Soviet elite with an enviable array of perks and privileges, Russia's impoverished academics now find themselves at the bottom of the pile and struggle to get by on salaries which can be as low as £80 a month.

"How can I survive on such a salary?" asked Leonid, a physics professor who says he does not take bribes. "My earnings are enough to pay the monthly charges for my privatised flat such as electricity and heating, but there is nothing left over."

Corruption surveys show that education employees are some of the biggest bribe-takers, outstripping even the notoriously corrupt traffic police. Estimates of how much students pay teachers and academics in bribes every year range from £250m to £300m." - in Independent, by Andrew Osborn in Moscow

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