November 8, 2012

Higher education: Call for a European integrity standard - NATURE


The global market for diplomas and academic rankings has had the unintended consequence of stimulating misconduct, from data manipulation and plagiarism, to sheer fraud. If incentives for integrity prove too hard to create, then at least some of the reasons for cheating must be obliterated through an acknowledgement of the problem in Europe-wide policy initiatives.
At the Second World Conference on the Right to Education this week in Brussels, we shall propose that the next ministerial communiqué of the Bologna Process in 2015 includes a clear reference to integrity as a principle. The Bologna Process is an agreement between European countries that ensures comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications.
Furthermore, the revised version of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance, to be adopted by the 47 Bologna Process ministers in 2015, should include a standard that is linked to academic integrity (with substantive indicators), which could be added to all national and institutional quality-assurance systems.
We believe that an organization such as the Council of Europe has enforcement capabilities that can create momentum for peer pressure and encourage integrity. A standard-setting text, such as a recommendation by the Council of Ministers, or even a convention on this topic, would be timely given the deepening lack of public trust in higher-education credentials.
We do not expect that a few new international rules alone can change much. But we aim to create ways for institutions to become entrepreneurs of integrity in their own countries, as some models already exist (A. Mungiu-Pippidi and A. E. Dusu Int. J. Educ. Dev. 31, 532546; 2011).

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