Background: Corruption pervades educational and other institutions worldwide and medical schools are not exempt. Empirical evidence about levels and types of corruption in medical schools is sparse. We conducted surveys in 2000 and 2007 in the medical school of the Autonomous University of Guerrero in Mexico to document student perceptions and experience of corruption and to support the medical school to take actions to tackle corruption.
Methods: In both 2000 and 2007 medical students completed a self-administered questionnaire in the classroom without the teacher present. The questionnaire asked about unofficial payments for admission to medical school, for passing an examination and for administrative procedures. We examined factors related to the experience of corruption in multivariate analysis. Focus groups of students discussed the quantitative findings.
Results: In 2000, 6% of 725 responding students had paid unofficially to obtain entry into the medical school; this proportion fell to 1.6% of the 436 respondents in 2007. In 2000, 15% of students reported having paid a bribe to pass an examination, not significantly different from the 18% who reported this in 2007. In 2007, students were significantly more likely to have bribed a teacher to pass an examination if they were in the fourth year, if they had been subjected to sexual harassment or political pressure, and if they had been in the university for five years or more. Students resented the need to make unofficial payments and suggested tackling the problem by disciplining corrupt teachers. The university administration made several changes to the system of admissions and examinations in the medical school, based on the findings of the 2000 survey.
Conclusion: The fall in the rate of bribery to enter the medical school was probably the result of the new admissions system instituted after the first survey. Further actions will be necessary to tackle the continuing presence of bribery to pass examinations and for administrative procedures. The social audit helped to draw attention to corruption and to stimulate actions to tackle it.