A consortium of universities has called upon higher education to play a far more active part in the global fight against corruption.
The Poznan Declaration was endorsed at the 20th general assembly of the Compostela Group of Universities, a network set up in 1993 to promote international collaboration among institutions. Its impetus, said project coordinator Marcus Tannenberg, who works in the Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg, came from Swedish academics Bo Rothstein and Lennart Levi. A political scientist and an expert in psychosocial medicine, they had both become “concerned with the costs of corruption, not only at the financial level but all the way down to its medical consequences”.
The document points to evidence that corruption costs European Union states €120 billion (£94 billion) a year and that “the lower the social trust in society, the lower is the willingness to pay taxes, and consequently the lower is state income”. Yet universities’ curricula, far from offering “training in anti-corruption, ethical and impartial thinking”, “typically lack components that would contribute to a ‘non-tolerance of corrupt behavior’”, while “norms of deception and personal enrichment prevail at several schools”.
Turning to solutions, the declaration urges universities to “shoulder their role as key agents of change”. They are encouraged to “endorse a cross-faculty approach” to “the promotion of ethical behavior”; “appreciate [their] unique opportunity to shape professional identities”; develop partnerships with “organizations championing the anticorruption agenda, such as Transparency International”; and ensure that their own degree-awarding, hiring and promotion policies are “based on legitimate, transparent and objective criteria”.
Given “relatively low costs of implementation and the possible societal gains”, such initiatives could be “extremely cost effective” as well as “the right thing to do”.
The declaration has been endorsed by the World University Consortium and the World Academy of Art and Science, and Mr Tannenberg hopes to disseminate it via the International Association of Universities and reach out to other university networks, prominent institutions and academic unions.
“It is all about inspiring others,” he said. “We don’t have a clear package of policies for universities to adopt but will try to facilitate best-practice sharing. We have mainstreamed environmental and gender issues, even if we haven’t solved all the problems. The same could go for non-tolerance of corruption.”