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Round table: Corruption in the Bulgarian Education

The round table discussion Corruption in the Bulgarian Education, organized by Coalition 2000, pertained to the media debate of the last few weeks. The occasion for raising the question in the media were the scores of the Corruption indexes for the third quarter of 2003, announced by Vitosha Research on September 10, which outlined the group of university professors as generating the highest scores of the indicator Corruption Pressure. The round table was held at Boyana Conference Center on September 30, 2003.

During the discussion, the participants commented on the results of various surveys on corruption in the universities and pointed out a number of institutionalized models generating corruptive practices in the educational sphere. Concrete suggestions for improving the institutional context were made and the advantages of applying some anticorruption practices were outlined.

In his opening remarks Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Democracy, placed the discussion in the broader context of Coalition 2000’s activities and compared the tension in the educational sphere to the situation several years ago, when the first data, showing the existence of corruption in the judicial and health care systems, were registered.

Mr. Georgi Nikolov, Chairman of the National Audit Office, analyzed the corruption risks, inherited in the institutional context, commented on the corruption practices typical for the educational area and pointed out the dangers stemming from the short examination periods, loose control during exams, the number of lectures held by one university professor, the paid educational forms managed by private companies, the low income level of the university professors etc.

Mr. Bozhidar Vlachov from the National Audit Office outlined the devaluation of the higher education as the main prerequisite for corruption, while analyzing the eight-year experience of the Audit Office in controlling the budgets of the universities.

Dr. Zhivka Damyanova, head of the expert group on anticorruption education in the framework of Coalition 2000, suggested the introduction of a code of ethics, which would regulate the relations between university professors and students as well as the introduction of the ombudsman institution in the educational sphere, which would collect all signals and complaints, initiate investigations and finally approach the competent authorities in cases of clear evidence.

Mr. Alexander Stoyanov, Director of Vitosha Research, demonstrated the persistence of the corruption problem in the secondary and higher education, based on comparative results from twelve national representative surveys carried out since 1999.

Mr. Kosta Kostov, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Fighting Corruption, attacked all kinds of out-placed educational forms and illustrated the risks they generate, giving the example of the three universities in Schumen, Blagoevgrad and Svistov.

Ms. Tatjana Kalkanova, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Science, presented to the audience bills and draft law amendments, such as the introduction of the institution and system of post-accreditation control, the abolishment of the option for out-placed educational forms managed by private companies, the introduction of in-house university quality control systems.

Prof. Venelin Zhivkov, Rector of the Technical University in Sofia, acknowledged the existence of the corruption problem in the higher education, but refused to accept entirely the survey results. However, he stressed the legislative and bureaucratic burdens as the main prerequisite for the existence of corruptive practices and illegal activities.
Prof. Dragomir Draganov, a university professor from the Sofia University, defined the corruption in the higher education as “organizational”, i.e. set in the laws and the ordinances, regulating the functioning of the educational system. He suggested the following concrete measures: reduction of the number of universities and introduction of a powerful distance education university, which can replace the out-placed educational forms. He also stressed the need for an independent budget line for the university faculties, as well as the definition of minimal expense threshold for the education sphere.

Mr. Ljubomir Koutin, project coordinator in the City and Culture Foundation, Varna, proposed the introduction of courses on anticorruption as a tool for fighting corruption in the education.

Ms. Teodora Varbanova, fellow to the Applied Research and Communications Fund, presented the results of a media survey and suggested a much wider use of informational technologies in the relations between students and university professors as in the whole educational area, which in her opinion, could contribute to limiting the preconditions for the spread of corruption in education.

In conclusion, the participants expressed their hopes for further development of the initiated debate and for the speedy launch of measures for limitation of the corruption in Bulgarian education.

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