Russian colleges face closure in quality push

August 6, 2004

A crackdown on sub-standard Russian colleges and courses has been ordered by the Education and Science Minister.

Andrei Furesenko warned that the worst offenders would be stripped of their teaching licences before the autumn term started.

The quality of educational programmes, teachers' qualifications, student progress and health and safety standards of buildings and student dormitories at scores of state and private universities across the country will be spot-checked.

The crackdown, being coordinated by the ministry with the assistance of the Association of Non-State Universities, could lead to students at some institutions finding their course or college closed when they return after the summer break, university chiefs have warned.

Education officials said these students would be offered places at state universities.

Vladimir Zernov, head of the Association of Non-State Universities, said:

"Unfortunately, the quality of education is going down so we were forced to conduct this probe with the ministry."

The probe follows an earlier crackdown that cost up to nine higher education institutions their licences, including the Kaliningrad branch of the Moscow International University and a branch of Rostov State University in Makhachkala, Dagestan.

Vladimir Khoroshilov, rector of Moscow's International Tourism University, which was recently stripped of its accreditation after failing an inspection, said parents and students were shocked and did not know what to do.

The crackdown comes at a time of renewed revelations of corruption in the higher education sector.

Georgy Satarov, a democracy activist and adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin, and now head of the independent research institute Information for Democracy, said that a survey of thousands of Russians had found that education was one of the most corrupt sectors of the economy.

Bribes paid to higher education officials and administrators accounted for more than US$300 million (£165 million) of a total annual Russian corruption market worth some $3 billion a year, Mr Satarov said.

Mr Satarov said Russia's tradition of excellence was threatened by the level and scale of the corruption. "Corruption has deformed the system.

Instead of awarding degrees to our smartest young people, we are awarding degrees to our most able corrupters."

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