Integrity violations and standards
The INTES assessments deliver country-specific findings on corruption and education, but they also suggest that there are significant, still unexplored commonalities between the integrity violations in different countries.
These violations fit into common definitions, are enabled by similar factors, and infringe similar rules, principles, and international commitments upon which education in these countries is based, and on which it relies to deliver quality, equity, and respect for the rights of education participants. With this strand of research work at the Center, we aim at summarising and analysing these commonalities as basis for the formulation of evidence-based, cross-country standards of integrity in education.
The outcome of this work will benefit researchers and practitioners alike. It provides education and anti-corruption practitioners with an overview of elements that make up an integral education system; it outlines which problematic practices should be defined as offences and why; it illustrates how national and international commitments to integrity and corruption prevention translate and apply to the sector of education; finally it describes what shortcomings in education and anti-corruption policy and practice create the disruptions in education that can stimulate demand and opportunity for corruption.
For more on the conceptual underpinnings of this work, see here
Universities, especially public universities, work in proximity to governments. They rely (to a large extent) on public funding, have a mission to serve the public interest, and commonly have representatives of national authorities on their boards. They also supply the public sector with the graduate workforce that it needs.
For many years, the academic world has treated its inherent closeness to state authority as a source of risk for institutional autonomy and independence. The propensity of academia to treat its connection to government as a potential source of undue influence by the state, has diverted public attention away from some critical questions.
Is the relationship between higher education and political power really unidirectional? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that channels of influence can be open on both ends: that the closeness to policy-making, while exposing the universities to a risk of undue influence, also puts them and their staff in a privileged position to influence policy decisions in their own favour?
With this strand of integrity research at the Center we are collecting first-time evidence on academic capture: a conflict of interest situation in which public officials with responsibility for education, such as Ministers of Education, senior civil servants in these Ministries, members of Parliamentary Committees on education, etc., have a financial interest in the form of for-profit affiliation with the higher education institutions for which they are responsible. Examples include an employment contract of the public official with one or more of these institutions, a contract for intellectual services, ownership of university, or else.
Academic capture is an unexplored phenomenon that seems widespread. It is also a problem that deserves immediate attention, because it can influence policy decisions on important issues, such as resource allocations, accreditation and/or closure of universities and programmes, in favour of some institutions and segments of the education system at the expense of others. This can have detrimental, long-term side effects on the education system in a country.
The aim at this stage of research on academic capture is not to provide solutions, but to raise awareness about the problem by collecting and presenting first time evidence on its prevalence in countries across the world.
Integrity and corruption in inclusive education
Since the Salamanca statement in 1994, inclusive education or special needs education has become one of the priorities in education policies in European and Central Asian countries. To develop inclusive education provision, the governments as well as international organizations started and continue to fund various projects. These range from re-building the school environments to educating communities and creating special curricula serving the specific needs of a student.
Each of these efforts is valuable from a human rights perspective and for ensuring the right of every child to education. However, there is little, if any, in-depth research on the results or impact of these efforts.
The efficiency of the reforms towards inclusive education hinges on the integrity of education systems and their capacity to keep a commitment to fairness and equity. The influx of financial and in-kind resources earmarked for promoting inclusiveness in education settings that are notoriously strapped for money, puts, however, this commitment to the test.
For instance, are the funds allocated to schools for adjustments towards inclusive education provision, used solely for the intended purpose? Are those who need support with their access to education also the ones who receive it? Did the inclusive education measures improve or worsen the integrity of education in the country in general?
Countries have undertaken numerous steps to minimise the corruption risks inherent to this area. Still, there is of yet no analysis that addresses integrity of inclusive education in a systematic manner.
We at the Center mobilise the INTES approach to evaluate the integrity and integrity implications of inclusive education policies, with a specific focus on the region of South East Europe. The research focus is on assessing the integrity of inclusive education in selected countries and providing practical recommendations for remedies where they are needed. The anticipated outcomes are integrity recommendations for inclusive education, and the assessment of national inclusive education policies against them.