Corruption in Russian Medical Schools Triggers Uproar
An exposé in the Russian edition of Esquire has roiled education and health officials here by detailing the corruption at six medical schools. The magazine in April published nine short articles by medical students describing the various ways they can pay professors in exchange for passing tests.
It is not exactly breaking news that bribery exists at Russian universities. According to a May poll of 17,500 people by the Public Opinion Foundation, an independent group in Russia, respondents identified higher education as the most corrupt sector of public life, with traffic cops coming in second. But the news that future doctors, dentists, and surgeons often buy grades instead of actually learning the material triggered an immediate uproar.
Perhaps no institution has been embarrassed more than the I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, one of Russia’s best-known medical schools. In Esquire and in discussions with The Chronicle, students described an environment where bribery runs rampant. It is so common at the university, known as First Medical, that students aren’t surprised to see a peer casually hand a professor of histology a thick wad of 1,000-ruble bills.
Vladimir, a third-year student who asked that only his first name be used, given the sensitive nature of the topic, told The Chronicle that before exams, his mother helps him pay $200 to $450 in under-the-table payments to faculty members. In exchange, professors help students “survive the brain-crashing number of tests and exams,” he said.
After the Esquire article appeared, First Medical received a letter from the Ministry of Health that ordered university administrators to meet with the ministry. “Our rector and the rector of three other Moscow medical universities were invited to the Ministry of Health last week to discuss ways of fighting corruption,” First Medical’s deputy rector, Igor N. Denisov, said. He did not specify any concrete proposals put forward at the meeting to curb bribery.