Tackling corruption in the university: fraud prevention, market making and the Big Four

16th March 2021 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Cris Shore, Goldsmiths University of London

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Corruption narratives, like witchcraft accusations, offer a lens for analysing social relations, economic interests, and hidden structures of power. Developing this theme, I examine discourses of corruption in the context of growing concerns about fraud prevention and anti-corruption in universities. Moving beyond critiques of university administrations as bureaucratic, self-serving entities whose interests are increasingly at odds with the academic mission of the university, I ask, what is corruption in academia and how does this problem relate to academic capitalism and the rise of audit culture?

The context for my study is the extraordinary increase in institutionalised fraud prevention programs, particularly those offered by the “Big Four” accountancy firms, particularly KPMG and PwC. Taking as my case study the introduction of a whistle-blower hotline at one Australasian university, I examine the politics and interests behind such schemes. The increasing involvement of accountancy firms in non-auditing work, including anti-corruption services, illustrates how corruption narratives operate as market-making strategies. I examine how commercialisation, risk management, and auditing proliferate anti-corruption initiatives and how audit firms collude in the risk and corruption that they claim to ameliorate. I conclude by assessing the implications for the anthropology of corruption of the growing penetration of universities by an increasingly commercially focused tax industry that, some argue, cannot even be trusted to regulate itself.

This webinar is part of the free public seminar programme hosted by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).