Plagiarism case haunts education minister

The University of Düsseldorf has decided to pursue plagiarism charges against German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan. The matter could end in her losing her doctorate.

Plagiarism case haunts education minister
Photo: DPA

An academic commission this week recommended holding a hearing whether to open a case against the Christian Democratic minister in January.

“The faculty has no choice but to continue down this path of investigation,” the university’s rector, Michael Piper, told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.

Schavan, who competed her dissertation in Düsseldorf in 1980, has long denied she failed to properly cite her sources.

However, accusations of plagiarism were first published anonymously on the blog schavanplag.wordpress at the beginning of May, prompting the university to announce it would investigate. Altogether, passages on 60 of the dissertation’s 351 pages were found to be questionable.

Beyond the embarrassment at having Germany’s top education official face charges of academic impropriety, it is not the first plagiarism case to hit Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

In 2011, her popular defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, was forced to resign when it was uncovered he had copied large chunks of his doctoral dissertation.

DPA/The Local/mry

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Austrian minister steps down over plagiarism accusations

Austrian minister Christine Aschbacher resigned from her cabinet post in charge of labour, families and youth on Saturday following allegations some of her university work was plagiarised.

Austrian minister steps down over plagiarism accusations
Austrian minister Christine Aschbacher has resigned in the face of plagiarism accusations. Photo: Helmut Fohringer/APA/AFP
A conservative from Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's OeVP party, Aschbacher said she had stepped down to “protect my family”, complaining of “hostility, political agitation and attacks… with unbearable force”.
Aschbacher's 2006 master's thesis displayed “plagiarism, incorrect quotations and lack of knowledge of the German language”, alleged blogger Stefan Weber, who specialises in sniffing out academic fraud.
At the time, she graduated with high marks from the University of Applied Sciences in Wiener Neustadt, south of Austrian capital Vienna.
Weber has levelled the same allegations at a thesis she submitted in May last year — in the depths of the first wave of coronavirus — to the Technical University of Bratislava in neighbouring Slovakia.
He claimed the work contained “never-before-seen depths of gobbledygook, nonsense and plagiarism” and that more than one-fifth of the text had been lifted from other sources without citations, in particular an article from Forbes magazine.
Under attack by the opposition, Aschbacher “rejected” what she called Weber's “insinuations”.
Kurz wrote on Twitter that he “respected” her decision to resign, after the scandal piled pressure on a government facing criticism for its management of the second wave of Covid-19, widely seen as chaotic.
The chancellor added that he would name a successor on Monday.
Academic plagiarism is a regular charge levelled at politicians in the German-speaking world, where leaders often brandish postgraduate qualifications.
In Germany, two conservatives, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Annett Schavan, stepped down from the defence and education ministries in 2011 and 2013 over similar scandals, while current centre-left Families Minister Franziska Giffey has been dogged by plagiarism allegations for years.