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December 07, 2012 2:48 PM Ukraine Combats Grade Inflation, Through Threats

By Daniel Luzer

Some critics of the American university system worry about grade inflation, the steady increase in average student grade point averages over time. The America mean GPA has increased by about 0.1 each decade since the 1960s. Well, it turns out there are worse things than grade inflation for academia.

According to Ukraine’s Kyiv Post some professors over there say they’ve been told to deliberately decrease grades, not to preserve some sort of academic integrity, but just to save cash:

Some educators say they are being told to save money by artificially failing students, thus making some of them ineligible for stipends.
Sources in the faculty of several universities… [said] that they are forced to keep their students’ performance at a level below which they qualify for government stipends.

Ukraine pays modest stipends (under $90) to those students who demonstrate sufficient academic performance. About half of students in the country now qualify for the money.

But budget problems in the country (one investment bank predicted no increase in Ukraine’s gross domestic product growth this year) mean that the government doesn’t think it can afford to pay all the stipends. And so the solution it may have come up with is just to force professors to issue lower grades.

Authorities have reportedly threatened to cut salaries if academics don’t comply with the “fail more students” directive. According to the article “up to half of salary payments for university professors in Ukraine comes in the form of bonuses for various academic achievements.”

This sort of policy appears to have some precedent; professors say past Ukrainian governments have also demanded lower grades in order to cut the country’s spending.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer