Degrees of corruption

The lamentable current state of Australia’s universities — and not just in the ARC grants department — can be seen in some of Curtin University’s recent vicissitudes. Crisis breeds opportunity, but I’m not sure that these activities can be entirely justified in the name of a market approach to higher education.

In 2011 Curtin’s IELTS English language testing centre had to be closed when one of its more enterprising staff members was found offering falsified IELTS results for a tidy fee.

Now, another of Curtin’s lecturers has been caught allegedly asking for a bribe to get an international student to a pass grade in an exam.

It’s quite a good bribe, too: $100 per mark, a total of $1500. So if you had a student – or a few students – who really failed in an exam, it could be a nice little earner.

The pressures on universities are many – but they are mostly of their own making. Having entered into a Faustian bargain with the Federal government, they now find themselves chained to the galleys in the doldrums, and there are now the first flickers of pirate sails on the horizon. The reckless drive to secure and retain large numbers of fee-paying international students means that immediate and very obvious opportunities emerge for this kind of scheme, and others.

What this also goes to show is that the entrepreneurial spirit is actually alive and well in Australia, but that it’s being crushed, stifled and misdirected by a sclerotic university system. These academics could do really well in the business world; they just need to get out there and get to work..

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City

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