Encyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics

Living Edition
| Editors: Deborah C Poff, Alex C. Michalos

Anti-corruption Education

  • Peter HardiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-23514-1_134-1


Introduction: The Context of ACE

ACE is a subset of business ethics education (BEE). Most of the issues discussed under that entry form the base of ACE as a specific, applied field of BEE. Almost all the dilemmas educators face in the field of BEE pertain to AC educators. The central dilemma is whether to follow a value-based education or an instrumentalist approach. Thus ACE can also rely predominantly on the application of moral philosophy with value judgments or on the application of legal and compliance driven governance theory with utility calculations. The moral approach refers to a philosophical framework or a religion or social norms; the instrumental approach refers to rational calculation of benefits.

In the context of a moral philosophy centered ACE, corruption is defined as inherently bad and immoral and the individuals and the firms are positioned as moral agents. The applied moral philosophy can be universalist or particularist: the former operates with universally binding principles, the latter emphasizes that ethics and moral judgments are rooted in the individuum; or relativist, emphasizing the role of local cultures that determine very different perceptions of what is right and wrong (cf. Olsen 2010, p. 157). In the context of an instrumentalist approach-based ACE, corruption is defined as a market failure and/or public policy failure and the individuals and the firms are positioned as performers of law-imposed minimal compliance (when not complying harms the individuals and the firms). Both approaches are normative: The moral approach requires you to do it [i.e., anti-corruption] because that is right and/or good; the instrumentalist approach requires you to do it [i.e., anti-corruption] because that is useful (cf. Jones 1996; Fleming and Jones 2013; Frederick 2006).

The choice significantly influences both the ways ACE is organized and the approaches to what and how to teach. ACE is part of a complex system that includes business, governmental, and other nonbusiness drivers such as an increasingly globalized market economy, national and international formalized legal systems, institutional and administrative governance structures, formal and informal social and cultural factors, including educational systems.

This complex system has several spatial and temporal variations that generate further challenges and require the continuous review of ACE. Some of the most important variables are the following:
  • The changing business-and-politics interface: The impact of globalization on business education

  • Market instruments for regulating international business activities, including international standards and voluntary best practices

  • Political influence on business and markets: international treaties and regulations and the emergence of global anti-corruption norms

The Purpose and Starting Points of ACE

ACE is aimed at preventing and/or solving the problems and distortions generated by corruption. As corruption reduces growth and increases inequality, ACE ultimately influences the macroeconomic effectiveness of business and politics (cf. Mauro 1997 in Elliott 1997). Its main implicit presumption is that education is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for eliminating (or, as a minimum, reducing) corruption. Thus the first starting point for every form of ACE is the analysis of corruption and the understanding of the distortions and perceived damages it causes in business and society. Effective ACE is impossible without a thorough understanding of the causes, institutions, and mechanisms of and motivations for corruption. ACE is one of the responses to the need for countering the challenges of corruption that “reach far and wide,” to the “scale of the problem” and to its harm to “established and trusted relationships” (Amann et al. 2015, pp. 1 and 2). In the narrower sense of ACE in business schools, corruption is considered a serious impediment on business transactions and a leveled playing field. “The point on transparency and predictability is particularly important. Time and time again, we see that while at certain points in time corruption may help resolve individual transactions, once it becomes institutionalized, companies suffer because it is impossible to predict how markets will work. In other words, in a corrupt environment, it is impossible to predict how a legislation will be enforced, who will make decisions, and why certain decisions will be made. How can you plan your business activities and decide on resource allocation and investment in such an environment?” (Olsen 2010, p. 154).

The second starting point in ACE is the definition and analysis of anti-corruption in order to design appropriate and efficient strategy and content for ACE. The analysis of corruption helps define the appropriate forms, mechanisms, and efficient tools of anti-corruption activities. Anti-corruption is defined as “the opposition to or prevention of corruption” (Collins English Dictionary) or as an activity “designed to eradicate or prevent dishonest or fraudulent conduct” (The Oxford Living Dictionary). The UN Convention Against Corruption defines the purpose of anti-corruption activities primarily as prevention and punishment. A central objective of every kind of ACE is prevention: “To promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively… To promote, facilitate and support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption.” Additionally, it defines the purpose of these activities as “to promote anti-corruption, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property” (UNCAC 2004, Article 1); and punishment by the criminalization of corrupt practices and effective law enforcement: [The Parties] “shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence, in accordance with its domestic law, participation in any capacity such as an accomplice, assistant or instigator” in corrupt activities (UNCAC 2004, Article 27).

ACE’s purpose is to improve the preparedness of managers to better, more “effectively cope with the challenges of leading with anti-corruption in a global stakeholder environment” (Amann et al. 2015, op. cit. p. 28).

The third starting point of ACE is that here is an ever-growing global demand from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors for practitioners and business managers who are well equipped with necessary knowledge, skills, and values to effectively counter the harms and negative impacts of corruption.

The Basic Assumptions of ACE

Anti-corruption strategies have several assumptions, most notably one that anti-corruption needs a universally applicable strategy, consequently it is possible to develop a similar ACE strategy and general content globally. This assumption reflects an institutionalist approach by raising and answering to the question “whether it makes sense to assume a homogenous kind of rational and strategic action across cultural settings” (Hall and Taylor 1996). Hence there is a need for an overarching framework for ACE that is capable to organize the increasing knowledge on anticorruption, synthesize the rapidly growing experiences and best practices worldwide (cf. Lambsdorff 2007, p. 225). An addition to this assumption is that broad based mass education and the specific targeted ACE are the right tools for reducing and/or eliminating corruption (cf. Uslaner and Rothstein 2012).

The possibility for leveling the playing field by anti-corruption education is another basic assumption. The importance attributed to the leveling the playing field reflects a liberal interpretations of the economy where free competition and equal entry conditions determine markets. Corruption is perceived as an intervention into the free market that distorts fairness and equal entry conditions (OECD 2014). A further assumption is that leveling the playing field also depends on leadership approaches. “The human factor is perhaps the greatest challenge to leveling the playing field in the global marketplace. Until management sets the right tone at the top and is willing to stay the course when others do not, we will continue fighting an uphill battle” (Olsen 2010, p. 158).

ACE Frameworks

The need for an overarching framework in ACE is further supported by the fact that in a globalized economy business practices and accounting principles are becoming increasingly uniform (Olsen 2010, p. 157). At the same time, the emergence of global anti-corruption norms also strengthens the argument in favor of a globally applicable ACE framework. Major international organizations such as the UN, the World Bank, and OECD have legal and policy instruments to combat corruption. The information revolution and the emergence of new forms of social interactions and the social media contributed to “wide-spread diffusion of new information about the causes and costs of corruption, as well as strategies to combat it” (McCoy and Heckel 2001, pp. 86–87). New international educational institutions have been established, offering curricula to a global audience, see the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) and its mission (IACA https://www.iaca.int/master-programmes.html).

A global ACE framework has several advantages, such as addressing global problems with the flexibility and adaptability to local conditions; selection of effective materials; inspiration for creating new, locally relevant content; and helping “aligning… course objectives, content and pedagogy in the context” (Amann et al. 2015, p. 65) of anti-corruption. As ACE is part of the general management and leadership education, its framework can rely on and incorporate the insights gained in studies on motivations and learning (cf. Eccles and Wigfield 2002). When designing an ACE framework, educators can consider that the learning outcome be relevant to the context while the knowledge and skills to be taught be selected to that purpose.

Several international organizations, particularly OECD, Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) of the UN Global Compact, and the UN Convention Against Corruption, provide materials and methodology for ACE.

Multi- and Interdisciplinary Approaches in ACE

There is a general agreement on the importance of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches in ACE because knowledge from different disciplines can allow for a more holistic understanding of corruption and anti-corruption strategies (Cotton and Alcock 2012). ACE needs a holistic perspective that includes a multidisciplinary approach (using material from business, economics, law, anthropology, sociology, and political science) and a bottom-up perspective. This perspective focuses on real needs of managers and leaders that spread over the different market, political, legal, and sociocultural environments.

ACE curricula may integrate the institutional level (faculty, university), the curricular level (course design, modules), and the instrumental level (specific methodologies) in order to create significant learning for students and generate a synergic and holistic effect on students’ acquired knowledge, not only in terms of competences but also in terms of attitudes (Setó-Pamies and Papaoikonomou 2016, p. 525). Those who emphasize the importance of ethical education use a similar though distinct argument: “The nature and value of the anti-corruption capacity construct … and its four dimensions – process, judgment, developmental and system anti-corruption capacities … [help businesses] … better handle behavioral, moral and legal complexity and thereby promote moral progress in business domestically and globally” (Petrick and Quinn 2000).

Modular Structure

The most effective anti-corruption curricula are organized in a modular structure that ensures instructors the flexibility and the application of the best quality content in teaching modules on anti-corruption. Two rationales justify the choice of a modular outline. First, in order to cover as many of the different topics that characterize the complex fields of corruption and anti-corruption, the adoption of a series of modules, arranged as core courses and electives in degree education or as different training blocks in nondegree education, seems to be the optimal solution. Secondly, the regional specificities of anti-corruption actions require a satisfactory degree of case studies and literature specialization on different regions. This could be, again, best achieved through a modular system.

Content of ACE

The significance of ACE in degree (particularly in MBA) and executive education curricula has considerably increased in the twenty-first century. The many facets of ACE require both a multidisciplinary approach and a changed content. The most recent anti-corruption curriculum frameworks situate anti-corruption issues at the interface of the macroenvironment within which any business operates and the microenvironment inside the firm. The macroenvironment defines the different economic, legal, political, and policy issues influencing anti-corruption. It is also responsible for the social and cultural diversity of the interpretation of anti-corruption.

The microenvironment represents the management challenges for the firms and their leaders and defines leadership approaches, corporate culture, compliance systems, and the importance of risk assessment against corruption. Anti-corruption curriculum frameworks are designed as tools for leveling the playing field, with lessons learned and recommendations for countries of emerging and transition economies as well as highly developed economies.

Typical Course Topics in ACE1

Part of the ACE covering the macroenvironment (extra-firm areas) that determine the context within which firms operate typically includes courses discussing the following issues:

Political, policy, and legal environments of markets; the social and cultural dimensions of global management; and behavioral root causes of fraud and corruption.

Other courses covering the microenvironment (intra- and interfirm areas) that determine the activities of the firms deal with the following issues:

Legal and market instruments in controlling corruption and/or laws governing corruption; how to build an anti-corruption culture at a company; the role of corporate governance in controlling corruption; managing corruption risks in business transactions; compliance systems and enforcement.

Finally, a set of courses may cover the interface of public and private sectors, focusing on issues like:

Corruption and controlling corruption; collective actions against corruption; coordination of public and private interests.

These topics can be presented in the following matrix (Table 1) showing the relationship between the context of anti-corruption and course disciplines.
Table 1

Context of anti-corruption course topics

Context of anti-corruption courses

Course disciplines

Management science

Political science/public policy/political economy



Context of managing anti-corruption

Macroenvironment of anti-corruption management (extra-firm)


→Political, policy, and legal environment of markets

→Corruption and corruption control

→Collective actions against corruption

→Coordination of public and private interest

→Political, policy, and legal environment of markets

→Legal and market instruments for controlling corruption

→Laws governing corruption

→Sociocultural dimension of global management

→Behavioral root causes of fraud and corruption

Microenvironment of anti-corruption management (intra-firm)

→The role of corporate governance in controlling corruption

→Managing corruption challenges in business transactions

→ How to build an anti-corruption culture at a company

→Corporate intelligence in managing corruption risks

→Corruption and corruption control

→Legal and market instruments for controlling corruption

→Compliance systems and enforcement

→Business anthropology

Source: Table Courtesy of Prof. Hardi

Another matrix (Table 2) presents the modular conversion of topics, showing the relationship between the nature of relevant norms and the locus of activities/transactions.
Table 2

Modular conversion of ACE course topics

Modular conversion of topics

Locus of activity/transaction




Nature of relevant norms

Informal (ethics and culture)

→Anti-corruption and leadership

Positive leadership and decision choices

Corruption, bribery, and fraud

Social and cultural factors in managing anti-corruption

Anti-corruption and efficiency

Prevention: Risk management and business intelligence

Market failures and corruption traps

Social and cultural factors in managing anti-corruption

Anti-corruption and efficiency

Formal (governance and law)


Codes of conduct and fiduciary duties

Compliance in business environments

The macro-environment: State and politics

Controlling corruption: Legal frameworks

Source: Table Courtesy of Prof. Hardi

Integrated Approaches

Educators emphasize the need for a three-level analysis in ACE: the institutional (faculty, university), the curricular (course design, modules), and the instrumental level (specific methodologies). This approach allows to generate a synergic and holistic effect on students’ acquired knowledge, “not only in terms of competences, but also in terms of attitudes” (Setó-Pamies and Papaoikonomou 2016).

Business Relevant Materials in ACE

Availability of materials in degree and nondegree education and for company actions and trainings is an important factor in effective ACE. Text books, case studies, online and multimedia materials, training materials, handbooks, toolkits, web-based materials, videos, movies, blogs, etc. are all parts of the ever broadening offering. Materials relevant in ACE for business also include compilations of international business principles on countering corruption and bribery, compilations of anti-corruption codes of conduct and compilations of international and national anti-corruption laws, and compilations of case studies.

Course and training materials can rely on the following sources:

Text books, case studies, online and multimedia materials, training materials; handbooks; toolkits; best practice examples; compilation of international business principles on countering corruption and bribery; compilation of anti-corruption code of conducts; compilation of international and national anti-corruption laws; other Web-based materials (e.g., nonprofits’ anti-corruption education websites); videos, movies (e.g., http://ethicana.org); materials prepared by agencies and organizations specialized on anti-corruption issues (e.g., Transparency International http://www.transparency.org/topic/detail/education; Open Society Foundation https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/world-s-most-corrupt-university-system; and anti-corruption resource centers, e.g., http://www.u4.no); internationally supported local educational projects against corruption (e.g., http://www.sdcentras.lt/antikorupcija/en/tp1.htm); blogs (e.g., https://educationpolicytalk.com/2014/05/06/anti-corruption-education-to-be-or-not-to-be/); best practices (e.g., http://www.nyc.gov/html/ia/gprb/downloads/pdf/NYC_Anti-Corruption%20Educational%20Campaign.pdf); and business offerings (numerous, including general consultancies such as Ernst and Young http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Building_an_anti_corruption_program/$FILE/Building_an_anti-corruption_program.pdf, specialized training firms such as GAN International http://www.business-anti-corruption.org/tools/training.aspx, law offices, etc.).

One of the most comprehensive sources of teaching materials and methodologies is the UN PRME source book: Anti-Corruption: Implementing Curriculum Change in Management Education (Amann et al. 2015, op. cit.). It provides comprehensive guidelines on how to professionalize ethics and anti-corruption education worldwide in a variety of classroom settings. It includes successful patterns and illustrative case studies and helps adapt and develop best teaching practices. Other PRME-inspired ACE teaching materials are Stachowitcz-Stanusch and Hansen (2013) and Sunley and Leigh (2016).

A further major source is OECD’s educational and training materials: Anti-Corruption Ethics and Compliance Handbook for Business (OECD-UN ODC-WB 2013).

ACE Methodologies

Methodology is important to determine how to achieve the goals of and how to teach in ACE. There is a broad variety of methods, such as traditional methods (lectures and seminars, guest presentations) and methods that apply new pedagogical tools such as the application of simulation and situation games, action learning, online teaching methods, etc. Despite the variety of methodologies, ACE is based on the assumption that, similarly to a globally applicable and relevant content, certain methodologies that have a key role in ACE are also applicable globally. These methodologies can be jointly developed by instructors and scholars with significant experience in ACE. The most relevant example for such an effort is the activity of PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education), an initiative of the UN Global Compact. PRME established a Working Group on Anti-Corruption in Curriculum Change with an international team of business school faculties (UN PRME 2008) that, over a period of several years, prepared an anti-corruption toolkit for global use in ACE and published it in 2013 (UN PRME 2013).

Financial and Institutional Arrangements for ACE

Education to affect corruption can be publicly or privately financed and is to affect private and public agents (players in business, politics, and administration). The purpose and content of anti-corruption education will vary accordingly. Some of the most significant institutional players that support ACE are the OECD, the UN Global Compact and its PRME initiative, and development banks.

Businesses may have an interest in ACE and play a role in financing it through trainings, by developing teaching materials and support business schools in their ACE programs.

A special case of financing ACE is the Siemens Integrity Initiative (Siemens 2009). As a settlement with the World Bank in 2009, after its infamous bribery case, Siemens AG agreed to establish a special fund in the amount of US$ 100 million to support anti-corruption education and collective actions over a period of 15 years. Roughly one fifth of this fund is to be devoted to support ACE. The Siemens Integrity Initiative has had a role in strengthening institutional arrangements for ACE by supporting PRME, Transparency International, and the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), among other players.

There is an increased interest among donors in funding civic education to build corruption awareness and civic virtue in schools. These efforts can be seen as both one-off and supporting wider institutional reform (cf. Marquette 2007). One example is the World Bank Institute’s Youth for Good Governance Learning Program within its broader Governance and Corruption Program that also emphasizes that donors see this sort of education as “key” in fighting corruption (World Bank Institute 2006).

Impacts of ACE

Research has demonstrated a positive relationship between education and political knowledge at the individual level, but it does not support this relationship between aggregate education and corruption (cf. Eicher et al., op. cit.). ACE may not have a major impact on grand corruption undertaken by political elites that implement policies to foster their own utility, either through misappropriation or distorted allocation of public funds (Eicher et al. 2009), but it may affect areas and institutional arrangements where corruption is most prevalent and where corrupt transactions are arranged. The impact of anti-corruption research and education is seen in changing the particular institutional design that is employed for carrying out corrupt transactions at projects of major development banks, in particular at the World Bank’s anti-corruption efforts. “Substantive reforms ranging from a new staff rule … to the formal calculation of corruption risk in loan appraisal documents offer realistic ways to strengthen the anti-corruption efforts of the World Bank” (Chanda 2004).

The positive impact of ACE is expected to be seen in the emergence of a new generation of management that is trained and assigned to identify the risks of corruption and steer organizations around the pitfalls of doing business in corrupt environments (Olsen 2010, p. 159).



  1. 1.

    The course topics listed here are drawn from existing courses at different universities/business schools rather than quoting existing course titles.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central European UniversityBudapestHungary