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State-run universities score poorly on corruption

The 36 government-run universities in South Korea scored 5.88 out of 10 in a corruption survey by a state-run watchdog on Wednesday, marking a modest improvement from the year before, but indicating an ethical lapse in the research lab in particular.

The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission announced the results of the annual integrity scale, based on surveys of 7,108 members of the universities and 3,437 outsiders who had business dealings with the schools. In order to measure the level of corruption, the study looked at factors such as research, administration and contracting with outside vendors. It also examined the frequency of corruption scandals as well as any other act that might compromise the credibility of the institutions. The study was conducted from October to December last year.

The 2015 average score was a slight increase from 2014 when the score marked 5.67. It also showed general improvement in areas such as the tendency of schools to provide favors to university officials and general corruption levels in research, administration and personnel management.

However, corruption within labs still appears to take place frequently, with 10.5 percent of the survey’s university respondents having pocketed research funds and 12 percent of them misusing funds. The following categories had also worsened: corruption risk, corruption awareness, transparency of procedures and responsibility towards tasks.

The schools were classified into five groups, with Group 1 being the least corrupt. No university was put into the first group, with the top-scoring universities all in Group 2. Included in Group 2 were Seoul National University of Science and Technology (6.27), Gangneung-Wonju National University (6.26) and Korea National University of Cultural Heritage.
 
Seoul National University’s lecture room (Yonhap)
Seoul National University’s lecture room (Yonhap)

The bottom three were Chonbuk National University (5.08), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (5.31) and Korea National Sport University (5.34).

Seoul National University, which is widely regarded as the top higher education institute in Korea, barely made it into the fourth group with a score of just 5.44.

“We have taken into account 38 corruption cases that occurred at 17 universities in the past year, which was actually less than the year before when there were 45 cases,” said an official from the commission. There were 17 cases involving the embezzlement of research funds, which was the most frequently occurring form of corruption. Meanwhile, 76.3 percent of those caught doing dishonest deeds were professors.

“Based on the 2015 results, we will conduct assessments on universities that have scored poorly and induce voluntary anticorruption efforts on their part,” said the commission’s official.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)
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