What to Study in a Corruption Studies Program: Comments & Information Please

Despite Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to paint Ukraine as a cesspool of corruption to advance his client’s reelection, media reports (here and here) and assessments by the IMF and the World Bank show the country making steady progress in bringing corruption to heal. One especially promising sign is the large number of university students and mid-career professionals studying how to combat corruption. Last September Ukraine’s Anticorruption Research and Education Center (ACREC) partnered with the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning, to offer a degree in corruption studies for students and a certificate for civil servants, business executives, and others in the workforce needing to know more about the topic to better do their job. Classrooms are bulging, and plans are being made to expand the number of courses.

The Ukraine program sparked the interest of other Eurasian nations in starting similar programs, and in January representatives of non-governmental organizations and universities from Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova met in Kyiv to learn from ACREC’s experience. Topics included whether to concentrate on students or mid-career professionals, whether, as in Ukraine, a program should be offered by a partnership between an NGO and a university, and the pros and cons of charging tuition versus seeking a grant from the government or a donor agency.

I spoke about what to teach. As the notes from my talk show, my bias is towards a heavily academic curricula, one that stresses analytical tools that prepare students to tackle a range of public policy issues. That is not the only way to teach about corruption, and indeed my friend Alan Doig has argued for a different focus.

I had planned to compare my proposed corruption studies curricula with those offered by universities and other institutions across the globe, but surprisingly little is readily available on the web.  A 2013 U4 Anticorruption Resource Centre study catalogued the courses and degree programs then offered but contains little on what is taught and many of the links to the programs are dead.  The only substantial description of a curricula I found was that of the International Anticorruption Academy, which has offered a Masters-level program in corruption studies since 2012 along with individual courses on specialized topics. (Full disclosure: one of which on local government I have taught on occasion.)

If we want more effective anticorruption policies and better implementation of those policies, we need policymakers, policy advisors, administrators, lawyers and business executives with a deep understanding of corruption and how to combat it. There is no one curricula or course that will meet everyone’s needs.  The more the global anticorruption community knows about what has been taught and what has been learned about teaching corruption, the better.  Readers with thoughts on what students and anticorruption practitioners should learn, with course syllabi, information on degree or certificate programs, and experience in or techniques for teaching about corruption are invited to share their knowledge with the GAB community.

6 thoughts on “What to Study in a Corruption Studies Program: Comments & Information Please

  1. Hi Rick, thanks for your post that brings attention to the idea of anti-corruption curricula/programs. I agree that developing structured and targeted resources for students and professionals to deepen their understanding of the area and enhance abilities to face corruption is an important and natural step forward. Although I am not aware of specific degree programs or many courses dedicated explicitly to corruption, there are some professors and practitioners connected with my university that may be able to point you in the right direction or give you valuable guidance. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, a professor of Human Security at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, focuses much of her work on corruption and leads the Corruption, Justice and Legitimization Program at the Leir Institute. I would also suggest connecting with Diana Chigas, a professor of international negotiation and conflict resolution at Fletcher who co-leads the Leir Institute program with Scharbatke-Church.

  2. Good Afternoon Risk.
    I am always looking for ways to enhance my knowledge and skills as a Risk Consulting professional that focuses on anti corruption and briber as well as fraud. I appreciate the references that you provided within your post. I attended the FCPA Institute offered by Mike Koehler which I found to be very informative and presented information and cases in a light that I was not able to find anywhere else. I hope there there is a future for this topic in colleges and universities as more global businesses are needed to support our various economies.

  3. Hi Rick,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and prompting all of us with an interest in the topic to share with and learn from one another. As many might know, one of the best resources for this topic is George Mason University’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC). Beyond the resources available on the website, several important anti-corruption experts affiliate with the center — most notably its Director, Louise I. Shelley, an early adopter and advocate for more concentrated research and pedagogy on the topic.

    The hardest part of developing a curriculum around corruption and anti-corruption is its multidisciplinary nature — cutting across several departments in a conventional university set-up and lost in a legal or security division of a company. In these cases, an interested academic or practitioner with the good idea would have to build a relationship within a department/division or broker a shared arrangement between two or more. Where some of us on the academic side have had a level of success, it is often not without frustration and back-benching of the issue. To that point, I offer an anti-corruption course at my university annually, but it is one the first to get cut if space is needed on the schedule or if your leadership needs someone to teach another section of lower level course. This waters down the issue and makes it a partial session sidebar in a class with a different focus. This “oh-by-the-way” approach leads to uneven treatment of the issue, buried in the bowels of a social science course or small department in a company. One of the ways to bridge the gap between dedicated program and second tier issue is to develop a 2-3 hour primer, which could be shared across an academic community or commercial organization — ensuring some level of basic education on the topic.

    All of this said, I am interested to hear the thoughts of other professionals and am happy to share my syllabi and course-ware with colleagues who reach out to me at ccorpora@mercyhurst.edu . Furthermore, I would be interested in hearing more about and collaborating with other AC professionals in institutions interested in advancing knowledge on the topic.

  4. As a law student and practitioner who researches and works in the anti-corruption field, I would suggest that a program in the area should include the following courses:
    – Public International Law and Anti-Corruption (Global and regional conventions and institutions, mutual legal assistance between states and international organizations, corruption at the state level and within international organizations, the role of international NGOs);
    – Corporate Investigations (role of corporations in corruption and especially in transnational corruption, different models of corporate liability, corporate and individual liability, internal investigations, whistleblowers);
    – Anti-Corruption Proceedings (Anti-corruption agencies, tools of investigation, cooperation agreements, anti-corruption in the civil law and in the common law traditions, purposes of the punishment to corruption, impunity and its causes)
    If other ideas come to my mind, I will post them here.

  5. Hi,
    Besides IACA and others mentioned here, I have hear about (1) Executive Course on Anti-Corruption offered by an university in Hong Kong, (2) Anti-Corruption course for executives offered by NSW Australia, (3) what about “Economics of Corruption” annually offered by Passau University (John Graf Lambsdroff) in the first week of October?

  6. A very welcomed post – thank you, Rick. Over the past two years, the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative – a project developed under UNODC – has been developing a series of Anti-Corruption University Modules, which lecturers can use as a basis for teaching in universities and academic institutions across the world. The modules are inter-disciplinary and aspire to be “easily adaptable” to different cultural contexts. So far, 13 modules were developed out of which 6 are publicly available on E4J’s website: https://www.unodc.org/e4j/en/tertiary/anti-corruption.html

    It seems to be an excellent initiative, especially that the modules are living documents that can be updated/improved at any moment. It’s worth mentioning – my favorite part – that the project also developed anti-corruption/integrity educational materials to be used at the primary and secondary levels. Arguably, adaptation to local contexts around the world may be resource-intensive, but it’s an important step forward in what I believe it’s an essential component of a sustainable response to corruption: early education.

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