Anti-corruption watchdog targets top university

Some of China’s top universities are coming under scrutiny as part of the country’s anti-corruption drive, with Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University last week named and shamed by anti-graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

In an unusual move, the commission published its report on Fudan and some other unlinked organisations, saying it was publicising its findings in the hope of spurring “public supervision” of organisations.

The Central Commission, which reports to the Communist Party, said its inspection team had visited Fudan between the end of March and early May.

The team had found misuse of research funds, safety problems related to the university’s new campus construction projects in Jiangwan district, and poor regulation of university-run enterprises including hospitals associated with the university.

It said that at university-affiliated hospitals, supervision of large-scale purchases of medical equipment and medicines had to be strengthened.

Systemic weaknesses

“The [university’s] regulatory system is not perfect,” the commission report said.

“The systems of oversight are not robust, there are many affiliated hospitals overseen by the university with complicated power structures, which means oversight is hard, creating a ripe environment for corruption,” according to the report presented by Dong Hong, leader of the inspection team.

Dong also referred to commercial activities conducted by the university management while they were in office, and recommended that the institution’s board members be banned from business activities.

Management of research funds was found to be “chaotic”, according to the commission inspection report released on Monday 7 July.

It said inspectors heard complaints from the public, interviewed individuals and examined university documents. Although no specific officials were named as being held to account, the commission said it had “collected clues” for further investigation.

It said “deterrence” was its main task with regard to universities, recommending in particular that Fudan correct loopholes and provide more effective oversight. It called on “ideological and party work” to be strengthened among teachers and students.

The problems were deeply rooted because of a lack of supervision by Fudan's Communist Party committee, according to the report.

Zhu Zhiwen, Fudan's party secretary, said the university would “rectify the problems” and strengthen management to prevent corruption.

Good governance pledge

Presidents of some of the country’s 26 top universities were called last week to a meeting of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing to be reminded of the obligation to run their institutions honestly.

The commission said on its website that the heads of the universities – the majority of them Communist Party officials – had to sign “a good governance” pledge in the presence of Education Ministry official Yuan Guiren and that more would be summoned to do so this month.

Earlier this month the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said 20 officials from universities and colleges had been investigated in the first half of this year, mostly on bribery allegations.

Analysts said the party appeared to be widening its anti-graft campaign.