Theses Doctoral

Making of a Voiceless Youth: Corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina's Higher Education

Sabic-El-Rayess, Amra

This research has analyzed a set of structural elements, procedures, and behaviors within Bosnia and Herzegovina's (thereafter, "Bosnia" or "B&H") higher education that have jointly created an encouraging space for the increasing and self-serving utilization of higher education by the country's post-war elite. Of the particular interest is this elite's impact on the forms of educational corruption, which have shifted away from standard bribing processes and moved toward more complex favor reciprocation networks. This process has ensured that today's corruption is perceived as a norm in Bosnia's higher education. Its prevalence has disrupted existing social mobility mechanisms and created a duality in the social mobility process so that the unprivileged still work hard to obtain their degrees while those with social connections are reliant on Turner's (1960) sponsorship model. The analysis goes beyond dissecting corruption's impact on modes of social mobility by redefining Hirschman's (1970) notions of voice, exit, and loyalty within higher education and expanding his theoretical framework to adequately capture and understand the unique set of coping mechanisms that has emerged within Bosnia's corrupt higher education. I reinterpret the voice mechanism that Hirschman sees as a political tool capable of bringing about change as, ironically, severely diminished in its power when observed within a corrupt environment. I further reformulate the notion of exit and contextualize it within the corrupt Bosnian educational system by differentiating amongst various types of exit. In the process, the study finds that Bosnian students often remain in the same educational institution despite the high level of perceived corruption. By ignoring their immediate surroundings and rather than departing physically as Hirschman would expect, students choose to exit mentally from the corrupt operational framework in which they continue to function physically. Lastly, with hard-work and morality marginalized, the question remains open on when the youth will push the educational system in Bosnia toward a tipping point, regain their voice, and transform from an indolent mass to an active reformer. Projects requiring greater transparency of the exam and grading procedures, enhancing external support, and providing spaces for disclosure and adequate management of incidences of corruption, when and if detected, would constitute a meaningful starting point that would help incentivize change. In the absence of concern with the current level of educational corruption, however, the dominance of the incompetent elites will only continue to dilute the effectiveness of the aid being poured into the EU's broader nation-building agenda for post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Levin, Henry
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 7, 2012