Rigging alleged in Prague law exam

September 17, 1999

More than 400 would-be law students at Charles University in the Czech Republic are resitting entrance exams this month after allegations of rigging forced their cancellation in June.

Claims surfaced on the day of the entrance exams that parents were buying law faculty admission test questions and ready answers for their aspiring offspring.

Rumours have circulated in the Czech Republic that admission to universities - especially Charles University - can be bought. But until the national daily Pravo published an anonymous letter about rigged entrance exams taking place at the law faculty no tangible evidence existed.

The faculty cancelled the test for 440 students and called in the fraud squad to investigate.

Although the academics, administration staff, printers and some students have been questioned, so far no culprit or culprits have been found and no details of the inquiry have been forthcoming.

Olomouc University's law faculty has come under suspicion as well. This means that two of four law faculties in the Czech Republic are now implicated in the

scandal.

The incentive to cheat is financial. Jana Smolkova, a member of the Charles University law faculty academic senate, said: "Many potential students think that law is a gold mine."

The legal profession is still booming in the Czech Republic, where unemployment has now reached 10 per cent and thousands of workers are owed months of wages.

It takes four or five years for a case to be heard in the courts and lawyers and judges therefore are in demand to deal with a backlog of cases, many of which are connected with post-communist privatisation, restitution, transition issues and business transgressions.

But competition for entrance into the nation's law faculties is ferocious. This year, only 550 out of approximately 6,000 applicants will be accepted into the law faculty in Prague, according to Charles University spokesman Vaclav Hajek.

Thus, when foreign, western companies are prepared to pay at least ten times more than local employers, a Kr100,000 (Pounds 2,000) bribe - equivalent to the annual salary of a university lecturer - seems a good investment for the prospective lawyer.

One aspiring law student - who has failed the entrance exam in the past, and who does not want to be named as he is still trying to obtain an admission - told the newspaper Lidove Noviny that he would buy the test results if he had the money.

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