(File pix) The massive demand for university degrees makes education vulnerable to bribery and corruption.

KUALA LUMPUR: The massive demand for university degrees makes education vulnerable to bribery and corruption, said University Malaya's Seventh Residential College president Syahirah Huda Abd Rahman.

Syahirah said students nationwide are under tremendous pressure to obtain university places and to leave with good grades as degree-level qualifications are deemed necessary for a successful career.

“This makes students desperate to bribe those in the higher management (for passing exams). While those who are in the know that these things (bribery) exist, they choose to stay quiet because they are either scared due to lack of power or simply do not want to get involved,” Syahirah told New Straits Times.

She said universities should be committed to prevent bribery. One of the ways to do this, she said, is to establish an anti-bribery policy.

“That means that universities will adopt a zero tolerance policy for any form of bribery and corruption and will ensure that no one suffers detrimental treatment as a result of reporting,” she said.

University of Malaya Economics Society president Tok Ghee Tek said there might be flaws in the existing rules, which cause people to see bribery as a necessary measure.

“An increasing trend of bribery does not only mean that corruption has become somewhat socially acceptable, it might also be an indicator that there is a lack of communication between the authorities at the top and those at street-level.

“Before starting tertiary education, most students are told to focus on their studies, to mind their own business and keep their noses out of trouble until they graduate.

“When the occasion arises where they have a chance to report corruption, it is natural for them to keep to themselves in order to avoid the hassle,” Tok said.

He said universities could provide a platform where people can communicate with the authorities anonymously.

“Those who are involved in corruption usually do not voice their concerns for fear of repercussions.

“This will ensure that students are rounded in all aspects and become better citizens in that they are not afraid to voice their concerns,” he said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's (UKM) Institute of Ethnic Studies associate professor Kartini Aboo Talib@Khalid said higher learning institutions should cultivate good values through co-curricular programmes and established checkpoints to govern university procedures.

“For example, universities utilise turn-it-in systems to detect plagiarism in students’ work. Instead of lecturers supervising the procedure, the university should appoint a third party to check students’ papers,” said Kartini.

The Corruption Prevention Action Effectiveness Perception Study among students showed that 16 percent of students in institutions of higher learning would be willing to accept bribes and 18.2 percent were willing to give bribes in order to escape action. It also shows that only 66.3 percent were willing to report corruption.

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