“Your legacy is being written by yourself. Make the right decisions.”
Within industries and businesses of every variety across the globe today, professionals have all come to understand and accept the Oxford definition that quality is ‘the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind.’ It is by observing and practising standards that growth is realized personally, and professionally. On an aggregate scale, it may also result in the growth of organizations and entire industry sectors.
Given the complexity of the contemporary business world, inclusive of the post-secondary/tertiary/higher education sector with its many stakeholders, reforms, political influences, government regulations, local, regional, or international scrutiny and constrained resources, just to name a few, good decision-making is a vital asset for both the professional and the institution. Post-secondary/tertiary/higher educational institutions are designed not only to encourage lifelong learning, to create and hone a variety of skills in individuals while advancing knowledge in the hope of activating and mobilizing human capital resources towards required industry sectors, but also to afford learning opportunities for a diverse and productive citizenry, well able to generate meaningful growth of the gross domestic product.
In the case of post-secondary/tertiary/higher education, decision-making is often carried out by a mixed group of professionals acting in silos, or collectively. They may be comprised of corporate administrators, faculty, students, ministries, regulatory agencies, and professional and trade associations. Often, they may be heavily influenced by economic, financial, and political forces, some of which may lead to corruption. Thus, the ability to operate in good conscience is pivotal to the transcendence of positive messages that emanate from the institution.
By conscience, we again accept the Oxford meaning of the “inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behaviour”. Innately, most individuals are desirous of having good principles, but often fall short of acting on good principles due to turpitudes of some kind (fear, double standards, nepotism, et cetera). Chapman and Lindner (2014) posited that “corruption in higher education is the focus of growing international concern among governments, educators, students, and other stakeholders. Those working in higher education institutions now face a unique convergence of pressures that are creating a heightened threat to the integrity of the higher education enterprise worldwide”. Corruption has a scalable umbrella that includes bribery, collusion, conflict of interest, favouritism, fraud, lobbying and the revolving door. Kirya (2021) identified a four-pronged Typology of Corruption as follows:
- Political Corruption, e.g., “… in some post-communist societies involved states deliberately underpaying salaries to force employees to get involved in corruption to supplement their income and then collect evidence of wrongdoing and coerce them into compliance”, Osipan A, (2008) cited in Kirya (2021).
- Administrative and Bureaucratic Corruption, e.g., “…authorities bust a crime ring in Madhya Pradesh led by an assistant professor who was working with officials from the examination board. The ring had helped more than 2000 students to get admitted into medical school by unlawful means. They sold the examination questions, facilitated ‘grade improvement’ and provided student impersonators to take admissions for a fee…” BBC News (2015) cited in Kirya (2021)
- Academic Fraud and Cheating, e.g., “…authorities charged a man with the sale of 2,000 forged degrees in Bangalore. It is estimated that up to 40,000 people gain employment based on fake credentials…” Gohwar, I (2017) cited in Kirya (2021)
- Sextortion and Sexual Harassment, e.g., “it is not limited to certain countries or sectors, but can be found wherever those entrusted with power lack integrity and try to sexually exploit those who are vulnerable and dependent on their power”, Thompson Reuter Foundation, n.d. cited in Kirya (2021)
Tackling corruption in the post-secondary/tertiary/higher educational environment is the responsibility of all its various stakeholders. These include ministries of education personnel, regulatory bodies, professional and trade associations, developmental partners, administrators, faculty, and students. It was postulated by Chapman and Lindner (2014) that “corruption practices in higher education can have a wider negative influence, to the extent that it breaks the link between personal effort and anticipation of reward. The risk is that employees and students come to believe that personal success comes, not through merit and hard work, but through cutting corners”. This is certainly not the message to be learned by the future leaders of the business world who no doubt would carry the learned behaviour into the corporate arena upon graduation, and thus fashion a ‘new order’ of scurrilous misgivings and create a further dimming of the perpetual light of excellence, virtue, and erudition. Chapfika, B. (2008). purports that “integrity is also central to the moral standing of educational institutions. A good educational institution is not that which conforms to some pre-set moral standards, but one populated by admirable people and one in which admirable people make decisions”.
Let us all admonish ourselves to be admirable people, academics, and leaders with competencies. Those in positions of power and trust ought to tap into their inner virtues and endeavour to stand up, and stand out, in the face of impropriety and perfidiousness. Post-secondary/tertiary/higher education institutions, their personnel and stakeholders must not be permitted to act carte blanche, but rather, be held to the highest level of quality conscience and do the right thing as acts of moral and professional virtue. In conjunction with the expansion of the quality assurance profession across the globe, new conversations have been generated in virgin lands. There are new regulatory frameworks and new levels of accountability in place. This has greatly enhanced the operational efficacy of institutions. Through the ubiquity of quality bodies and new quality cultures across the spectrum of post-secondary education, honest conduct may be encouraged for generations to come.
By: Quality Assurance Officer, Ms. Cassandra Earle-Hazell
Chapfika, B. (2008). The Role of Integrity in Higher Education. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.21913/IJEI.V4I1.192 – Retrieved October 17, 2022.
Chapman, David W and Lindner, Samira (2014). Degrees of Integrity: The Threat of Corruption in Higher Education. Studies in Higher Education, V41 n2 p 247-268. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03075079.2014.927854 – Retrieved October 17, 2022.
Kirya, Monica (2021). Curbing Corruption in Higher Education: Sector Reform Experiences and Strategies. https://curbingcorruption.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/210618-Curbing-Corruption-in-Higher-Education.pdf – Retrieved October 17, 2022.