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Lack of Transparency in Hungary’s Higher Education

Lack of Transparency in Hungary’s Higher Education

Corruption is present in Hungary’s higher education – at the institutions, in the Student Council, at the award of scholarships and dorm beds – this is the result of the latest research by Transparency International Hungary on the situation of higher education. In Hungary, 500 students were interviewed in the questionnaire survey and a number of in-depth interviews were conducted with teachers and administrative professionals.

  • The majority of the respondent Hungarian students believe that corruption is part of everyday life and politics are particularly corrupt. The educational institutions are considered moderately corrupt.
  • 32% of students believe that teaching staff is not at all or only partially honest. 26% question the integrity of Admission Committees, 46% question the honesty of the Student Council, and 52% doubts the integrity of public education in general.
  • Half of the students surveyed believe that dorm beds and social benefits are distributed through petty dealings. Students say that often money, gifts and favours must be used to please the decision-makers.
  • 75% of the fourth-grade students think that the Student Council represents only the interests of its members, contrary to its original task that should be standing up for all students.
  • The availability and use of EU funds constitutes a corruption risk as for the functioning of higher education institutions.
  • The majority of students usually prefer the regular way, but if entering a good university, or a getting a better note is at stake, the majority would call a family member or acquaintance for help. If parents or acquaintances do not help, students will help themselves: nearly a quarter of the students cheats or cribs in exams.

Those participating in the survey value the extent of corruption in educational institutions as moderate.

The majority of students surveyed feel that corruption is present in the world and in Hungary, and above all in political life. They value the extent of corruption in educational institutions as moderate. 32 percent of respondents felt that teaching staff in higher education institutions is not at all or only partially characterized by honest work. 26% of respondents question the integrity of Admission Committees at universities and colleges, 46% question the integrity of Student Councils, and 52% has doubts about the integrity of public education in general.

It’s a warning sign for the functioning of higher education that students in higher grades consider the situation much worse than first year students. “The risks of corruption discovered in Hungarian higher education are also worrying because a transparent and efficient education is the most important key to competitiveness”- said József Péter Martin, CEO of Transparency International Hungary, at the presentation of research results.

Problems in the Student Council

Who will become a member of the Student Council? One in every four student thinks that the only way for getting in the Student Council is by corruption, petty dealings and buddies’ help. Half of the students say that members of the Student Council ask for money, gifts or favours from students requesting dorm beds or social benefits, plus they seem to give these away more easily to their friends and acquaintances. According to some of the interviewees interested in higher education, the Student Council leaders obviously start to have more money when they are nominated for a higher post.

Many students say the Student Council’s finances are unregulated and opaque, it still has paper-based administration at many places, which is a hotbed for petty dealings, such as improper use of social benefits.

When the stakes are high, students are less correct. And this does not even bother many of them.

Nearly a quarter of students cheats or cribs in exams. But if others do, chances are high that it will never be reported. In fact 15 percent of students are sure that they would not report witnessing an irregular, arranged admission procedure, exam or scholarship administration, and 39 percent are not sure if they would. Only one in every five student is interested in corruption-related news, and the vast majority are not aware of the anti-corruption legislation and programmes.

Only 29 percent of students would report a case of corruption, the majority believes that reporting would have no effect at all, therefore prefers to remain passive. That means that students are just as indifferent as the entire population; the survey conducted among students has confirmed previous investigations done by TI. According to the corruption barometer published in July 2013 only 30% of Hungary’s population would report corruption, which is by far the lowest rate within the European Union.

Irregular use of EU funds

Higher education institutions often use EU funds in an irregular way and that constitutes a risk of corruption; they use EU funds not for a given project but to finance the functioning of institutions. This hinders transparency and increases the risk of corruption. Ever growing administration creates risks of error, due to a two-way accounting obligation: towards the EU and towards the institutions’ funding bodies. Very often these tasks require the involvement of external project proposal writing experts or institutions, meaning that the management of EU projects are outsourced, and it further complicates their monitoring. Finally institutions and their external collaborators are tempted by influencing future calls for proposals.

TI’s Global Corruption Report launched in Budapest

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2013 contains findings of more than 70 experts from 50 countries. The study found that over the past year, almost one in five people resorted to bribery in the education sector. The study highlights the patterns of corruption in the field of education such as embezzlement of national education funds, hidden school costs or the buying and selling of fake degrees. The report shows that in all cases corruption undermines the access to high-quality learning and social and economic development, jeopardises the academic credibility and legitimacy of universities and may even lead to the reputational collapse of a country’s entire higher education system.

“It would be important to create transparency of the financial processes of education funds and strengthen the access to data”- said Gareth Sweeney, a senior fellow at the TI centre of Berlin, chief editor of the Report at the launch event in Budapest. According to TI’s recommendations, a code of ethics developed for teachers can also contribute to a more transparent education. The entire educational system shall function in an accountable way. It is important to educate students against corruption, they must be taught as early as possible what is right, and why they should say no to corruption. Access to information and transparent supervision systems for the education sector shall all contribute to every forint that we intend to spend on the education of our children to be eventually spent where it is needed; that such funds are used for schools to be built, higher salaries for teachers and access for everyone to textbooks.

More information


The Global Corruption Report (GCR) is a regular series from Transparency International published every two years, that highlights corruption in important sectors of society and suggests ways to stop it. The topic of GCR 2013 is higher education. The 442-page book contains the opinions of over 70 experts in more than 50 countries. The book is divided into five sections, as follows:

  • Global trends in corruption in education
  • The scale of corruption in school education
  • Transparency and integrity in higher education
  • Innovative approaches to tackling corruption in education
  • The role of education in strengthening personal and professional integrity


The research conducted by Kutatópont on the commission of Transparency International aimed at examining corruption in the field of higher education. The research design built on primary data includes both quantitative (questionnaire survey conducted with 500 people, representative for both university and college students) and qualitative (15 structured interviews with target groups including teachers, institution managers and students) approaches. The query and interviews took place in September 2013.

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