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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Corruption in Schools Is Blasted

An education advocate on Friday accused the federal agency overseeing the country's education system of condoning widespread corruption in universities and allowing students to buy college diplomas without ever attending lectures.

Sergei Komkov, head of the All-Russian Education Foundation, accused the chief official at the Federal Service for Inspection of Education and Science of having allowed the accreditation of the Moscow-based World Technical University, which he said sold diplomas for thousands of dollars.

"An opinion is forming that the leaders of [the agency] constitute an organized crime group," Komkov told reporters.

He claimed the university occupies just three small rooms in a Moscow building, has branches in several regions and provides diplomas for between $5,000 and $10,000 without educating or testing students.

Komkov alleged that the oversight agency's chief, Viktor Bolotov, either granted the university its license for a bribe without bothering to check its credentials, or was fully aware of the violations and was part of the alleged scheme. He also claimed that some institutions of higher learning had been unfairly stripped of accreditation for refusing to pay bribes. "Not only does it undermine the whole education system; it also undermines national security," Komkov said, adding that university graduates often wind up in the security sphere.

Sergei Kravtsov, a spokesman for the oversight agency, called the accusations "slander."

University officials could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office said a criminal inquiry had been opened into the activities of an official at the oversight agency who is accused of embezzling 33 million rubles ($1.3 million) in government funds. The spokesman declined to comment on Komkov's allegations.

Komkov's foundation is a government-created education advocacy organization.

The payment of bribes for admission and grades at universities and institutes has become endemic in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, police and education experts say.