WENR, September 2009: Russia & CIS

Corruption Threatens Central Asia’s Universities

Students and families have long denounced widespread corruption in the tertiary education systems of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. This phenomenon has left many deserving – but poor – young people excluded, while also degrading the value of university and college diplomas, in addition to the quality of the workforce.

In Central Asia, a university degree can be a guarantee of a good job, meaning students and parents are often prepared to do whatever it takes to earn that degree, even if it means buying grades or admission. Several professors have been placed under investigation, but some analysts comment that court sentences are not enough to eradicate the problem.

In July, the head of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), the head of a department of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khujand (Tajikistan) and two university professors in Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan) were accused of corruption for accepting “bribes” from students.

In these three countries, students and their families have complained to Radio Free Asia that they are forced to pay for admission to university – anywhere from US$1,000 for course grades to US$40,000 in Turkmenistan for the “entrance fee” to in-demand programs such as law. In Turkmenistan, the phenomenon is so widespread that it even has its own nickname: elaklyk, which literally means “thanks giving”. In Kyrgyzstan many complain that there are established price lists for grades in certain subjects.

The system could have disastrous effects on the future of these countries. In addition to preventing access for poorer students, corruption severely reduces the value of a degree, especially abroad, while also leaving untrained graduates in senior positions in the workforce. Analyst Faridun Tajik Rahnavard comments that the problem cannot be resolved by prosecution alone, because it is too widespread. He notes that high school and university teachers in these countries are paid very poorly, which means they need to supplement their salaries any way they can. A good first step to reducing academic corruption, therefore, would be to increase salaries.

Asia News [1]
August 10, 2009


Ambassador Tells Tajik Youths not to Study at Pakistani Madhrassahs

Tajik Ambassador to Pakistan Zubaidullo Zubaidov says Pakistan should remove Tajikistan from a list of countries that illegally send young people to study in Pakistani schools.

Although Tajik officials say they have reduced the number of Tajiks going to Pakistan to study at madrassahs, or religious schools, they are still concerned that an estimated 300 Tajiks are studying there without permission. Zubaidov said that the curriculum and living conditions in such schools are not good and it is better for young Tajiks to study at religious schools in Tajikistan.

Davlat Nazriev, chief of the Tajik Foreign Ministry’s Information Department, told RFE/RL that most of the Tajik students studying illegally in Pakistan traveled there as tourists and were able to find the means to stay and study. One young Tajik man told RFE/RL he was sent to a Pakistani madrasah during the Tajik civil war when he was a refugee in Afghanistan and spent five years in very difficult conditions.

RFE/RL [2]
August 20, 2009


Government Eases Restrictions on Turkmens Wishing to Study Abroad

Turkmen authorities have cancelled a recently approved regulation that requires students to obtain permission from several state agencies if they want to study abroad. The Turkmen State Immigration Agency says students must now only be registered at the Education Ministry, which will make it much easier for them to study abroad.

The strict study-abroad requirements were approved by the government on August 1, but local residents say the cancellation of those rules came after extensive coverage by international media about them. There are approximately 6,000 Turkmen students studying in Kyrgyzstan, and there are thought to be several thousand others studying in other foreign countries.

RFE/RL [3]
August 20, 2009