Sunday, December 27, 2015

Role of Universities in the Fight Against Corruption

This is an interesting excerpt from University World News titled A ‘whole-of-university’ approach: Role of Universities to fight corruption

It is important to highlight that, at university level, curricula typically lack components that would contribute to a non-tolerance of such conduct.  There are good reasons for higher education to take on these challenges.

  • First, on a global level, corruption is considered one of the major obstacles for meaningful democracy, economic wealth and human well-being.
  • Second, apart from direct costs, both petty and grand corruption erodes social trust and contributes to reinforcing dysfunctional norms in a society. As social trust is needed in most undertakings of collective action, this can in turn undermine the ability of states to collect taxes.
  • Third, societies governed by corrupt systems and unethical norms provide a breeding ground for economic crisis. Whatever the underlying causes of economic and financial crisis, many governments react by introducing austerity measures.

The combination of crisis and austerity is likely to amplify unemployment, poverty and inequality, which in turn – directly or indirectly – may lead to increased morbidity, mortality and human suffering.  Adding to that, austerity measures often strike particularly hard against those unconnected with the causes of the crisis, which may further lead to an erosion of both trust and legitimacy in our democratic institutions.

From the numerous interactions from which we infer our trust in others, it is clear that reaching out only to students of law and public policy will fail to have the desired effects. To name but a few: your banker is likely to be an economist; engineers are often central in public procurement; doctors, nurses and administrators alike are all points of contact in the health sector.

Thus, for universities to optimise their roles as drivers of change towards social capital, health and well-being, a ‘whole-of-university’ promotion is needed.  Recognising the university sector’s potential, as well as its responsibility to help shape the moral contours of society for the better, we ask institutions of higher education to:

    Endorse a cross-faculty approach to include components of ethics and anti-corruption in curricula.
  • Teach teachers to encourage and facilitate the incorporation of ethics issues within their classes.
  • Appreciate the opportunity to shape professional identities, which set the boundaries of future acceptable behaviour.
  • 'Talk the talk' and 'walk the walk' – that is, in addition to educating on ethical behaviour it is crucial that universities – as agents providing a public good – themselves act accordingly, ensuring impartiality in teaching, student assessment and research and that matters regarding awards of degrees, employment and promotions are based on transparent and objective criteria.
Through this initiative, higher education can play its part in the global fight against corruption.