Polish political elite swept by fake diploma scandal

A private university is under investigation for suspected organized criminal activity

A private university in Poland and a number of its high-profile graduates have become embroiled in a corruption scandal involving bribery and fake master’s degrees.

Poland’s Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) is investigating the Warsaw-based Collegium Humanum management university for illegal trade in MBA (Master of Business Administration) diplomas. According to local media, several well-known district councilors and city mayors are among the graduates of the establishment. 

French newspaper Le Monde has described the scandal as an embarrassment to the entire Polish political elite and a symbol of nepotism in the country. 

Holding an MBA is a prerequisite to accessing well-paid positions on the boards of Polish public companies and in local government. Collegium Humanum offers studies in management, finance and accounting, and law, among other areas. According to Le Monde, the university granted the diplomas after less than a semester.

The mayor of Wroclaw, Jacek Sutryk, is among the Collegium Humanum alumni. He also sits on the supervisory boards of two municipal companies and earns roughly $8,000 a month, according to local outlet tuwroclaw.com.

The scheme was uncovered over the last two years by media investigations and was taken up by the authorities in February. According to the CBA, a suspected organized criminal group within the university issued graduation documents for bribes amounting to $112,000. Seven people were arrested by the CBA over the past two months in connection with the case, including the university’s founder and rector. According to Le Monde, some 30 people linked to the establishment have been indicted.

The scheme was made possible in 2017, when the then-ruling Law and Justice party introduced a provision that lowered the requirements for positions in public companies. Previously, either a doctorate in economics or law, or a state exam was necessary, although the changes opened up the positions to graduates with an MBA.

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The mayor of Warsaw said last week that City Hall was conducting an audit of the individuals on supervisory bodies and the governing bodies of municipal companies. Rafal Trzaskowski warned that those who hold degrees from the controversial university would have to sit a state exam in order to keep their positions, local media reported.

Collegium Humanum has issued a statement saying that its operations “are in no way threatened” by the developments, and that the institution “continues its educational mission, ensuring the safety of students and staff.”


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