German education minister stripped of PhD for plagiarism

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf decided yesterday to revoke the doctoral title of German Federal Minister of Education Annette Schavan.

Schavan was accused of uncredited copying from various sources in the dissertation "Character and Conscience" she completed in 1980. The university's faculty council began its inquiry two weeks ago prior to yesterday's vote to strip the minister of her academic title. News agency DPA has reported she is ready to appeal the decision.

Anette Schavan
Image: dts Nachrichtenagentur.

Most of the fifteen-member faculty council voted for withdrawing her doctorate, while two voted against and one abstained. The investigation began with the support of fourteen of the fifteen members on January 22. This decision was made after findings by an anonymous blogger were made public, Schavan had requested the matter be examined, and a preliminary examination completed in fall of 2012 found that around 60 of 351 pages in Schavan's doctoral thesis contained questionable sections.

Schavan admitted some discrepancies and oversights in the thesis, but said they were caused only by a careless use of sources, not by any intended cheating. The faculty council stated Schavan had "systematically and intentionally claimed intellectual achievements ... that weren’t her own." ((de))German language: ‍systematisch und vorsätzlich ... gedankliche Leistungen vorgab, die sie in Wirklichkeit nicht selbst erbracht hatte

Several well-known academic organizations in Germany interceded on behalf of Schavan prior to yesterday's decision.

Prime Minister Angela Merkel has endorsed Schavan as a minister, who is the second member of her cabinet to be charged with plagiarism. In 2011, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after a similar case of plagiarism.

Merkel is to stand for reelection in September.


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