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Corruption in higher education in Nigeria : prevalence, structures and patterns among students of higher education institutions in Nigeria.

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Discourses, conversations and commentaries, and scholarly articles on Nigerian economy, politics, and society tend always to involve corruption. Violent changes of government as well as democratic leadership selection invariably make references to corruption as a justification for change. Every government since the country’s independence has been assailed as either being corrupt or doing too little to fight corruption. Corruption is said to pervade every sector of the Nigerian society including education. Every stakeholder in higher education has at one time or another been accused of corruption. This study is concerned with one of the primary stakeholders in higher education – students. The study examines the prevalence, structures, and patterns of corruption among students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Prevalence refers to the spread and depth of corruption in the consciousness of students while patterns suggest the forms in which the phenomenon finds expression. Structures are the opportunities for corrupt behaviour. It elicited students’ ideas and concepts of corruption by means of focus group discussions and surveys based on semi-structured questionnaire. Empirical data were collected at ABU, UNN, FUTA, UNIPORT, IAUE, Rivpoly, FCEZ, and FCE (T) among others. These institutions were selected to represent the ethnic heterogeneity of the country as well as the three main types of higher education institutions in the country. Resource constraints and logistical factors meant that only two institutions were covered in the northern part of the country. However, the university selected in the north, ABU, has the entire 19 Northern States as its catchment area. The distribution of questionnaires among the various institutions also ensured that this limitation does not adversely affect the representation of the North in the sample. The field work for this research was done in two phases in 2009 and 2010. Though this is not a historical study, it was carried out at a particular historical conjuncture and therefore can be said to deal with undergraduates of Nigerian tertiary institutions in the first decade of the 21st Century. It introduces the concept of higher education student corruption to capture corruption among students. It treats higher education student corruption as a complex and composite phenomenon with various aspects or interrelated dimensions. It finds that students have ideas and conceptions of corruption. It argues that students’ ideas and conceptions of corruption are largely derived from student handbooks issued by the various institutions and from the environment. Consequently, it holds that students’ ideas and concepts of corruption are not original or distinctive but are of the genre of conceptions of corruption as abuse or misuse of office. The study elucidates the key elements of students’ ideas and conceptions of corruption and examines their explanation for why some of them participate in corrupt practices. It classifies the variables in terms of the concepts with which students explain higher education student corruption into personal characteristics, establishment characteristics of higher education institutions, and the culture of corruption and, explores how these engender corrupt practices among students. It identifies the major patterns of corruption that are prevalent among students as absenteeism, activisms, bribe/bribery, fraudulent conduct, cultism, dereliction, drug/alcohol abuse, examination malpractice, indecent dressing, sexual behaviour, theft/stealing, and unruly behaviour. The study also identifies and differentiates structures from patterns of corruption. The key structures of higher education corruption are teaching and learning, examinations, and accommodation as most of the patterns of corruption identified are imbedded in them. The study found that higher education institutions are not only ill-equipped to deal with higher education student corruption but actually drive the phenomenon. This lack of capacity is related to underfunding by owner agencies such as the government, mismanagement of resources and maladministration by the management of higher education institutions, and societal pressures on both the institutions and the students. These will likely hinder current efforts being made by national anticorruption agencies such as the ICPC to combat corruption in the education sector.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2015.


Students -- Nigeria -- Conduct of life., Student ethics -- Nigeria., Universities and colleges -- Nigeria., Theses -- Political science.