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Schavan won't resign, fights for doctorate
Photo: DPA

Schavan won't resign, fights for doctorate

Published: 06 Feb 2013 11:50 GMT+01:00

Speaking on Wednesday during a trip to South Africa, Schavan said, "I will not accept the decision of Düsseldorf University and will appeal against it. Considering the legal conflict, I ask for your understanding that I will not make any further statements today."

The university decided on Tuesday evening after a lengthy period of consultation to strip her of the doctorate she got in 1980 for her thesis "Person and Conscience". Technically she now only has her Abitur qualification - the German equivalent of British A levels - as she did not take a separate degree but proceeded directly to her doctorate.

She immediately came under intense pressure to resign her ministerial job, with many commentators comparing her case with that of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg who resigned from his defence minister job in 2011 after it was found he had copied large chunks of his doctoral thesis.

Schavan is a close political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces re-election this September and could do without losing a senior colleague.

Opposition politicians are keen to portray her as a liability for Merkel and spent much of Tuesday evening and Wednesday calling for her resignation, particularly in view of her position as minister for education and research.

German media were a little more forgiving.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said Schavan's case was a borderline one - as demonstrated by the length of time it took the university to check it. "The misconduct of the current minister was more than 30 years ago. One should have taken all of this into account, have reprimanded her for the poor quotes and have been able to leave it at that."

The paper said that with Guttenberg and Schavan, Merkel's government has a plagiarist rate of 12.5 percent - nearly as high as the share of pages in Schavan's doctoral thesis that were erroneous.

"The decision against Schavan sets strict standards, also for the checking of dissertations that have long been mouldering away in libraries. It may be exciting to see who many titles will fall victim to these standards," the paper concludes.

The Berliner Zeitung said, "It is already clear that the decision does not only hit the academic reputation of Frau Schavan. An education minister who is found out to have plagiarised parts of her dissertation can hardly remain in office."

But the paper added that the academics at Düsseldorf University, who did not bring in external examiners to look at the thesis, would also become part of the political discussion. It also said that although it is undisputed that Schavan's work has serious academic errors, a new examination of it more than 30 years later with massive consequences for her career is questionable at the least. "If this concerned a crime it would have long exceeded the statute of limitations," the paper said.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung pointed out that Schavan had set the bar high when she had weighed in publicly on the Guttenberg case, criticising his plagiarism. "She must now be measured against that. Angela Merkel who delayed for a long time in the Guttenberg plagiarism affair can hardly afford, at the start of the federal election campaign, to hold onto a struggling minister."

The Local/DPA/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

21:27 February 6, 2013 by melbournite
and politicians wonder why we hate them. I suggest that the profession is self-selecting, only the biggest liars and cheats make it to ministerial level
22:14 February 6, 2013 by McM
An interesting development, the press calling for the Uni to account for its shonky credential award system at last. While the popular press is off on its latest witch hunt and tall poppy harvesting finally the Berlininer Zeitung has dared to raise the core issue with this type of problem. The speed at which the Uni and academic community has gone into fog production and self righteous hyporacy hinting that they are not responsible for the slack peer review of past academics and how they are all old and retired now blah blah .Ha, what a load of crap. They have to be held accountable if their award candidate is being asked to account.
22:31 February 6, 2013 by pepsionice
Here's the thing. Pull out one thousand thesis from 2001, and it'll shock you....even in Germany....that half the people did a lousy job, and it should NOT have been accepted. Everyone puts this huge emphasis on the thesis and how it's supposed to demonstrate something. The truth is....you actually get more points for writing a great flowing and grammar-correct thesis, but low on real content.

So, let's do the right thing. Start pulling out every thesis written twenty years ago and let's review a second time. I'm pretty sure a vast number will fail.
08:24 February 7, 2013 by Englishted
@ McM

So if I am correct what you are saying is if somebody lies and cheats it is the fault of the person on the receiving end.

If a house is burgled it is the owners of the house that are to blame ,not the person setting out to commit a criminal act .

She used this fraud throughout her rise to high office and also to earn higher wages for a job to which she was not entitled or qualified.

Shame on the press for exposing this fraud ,they should be concentrating on the propaganda about how well we are doing and how low unemployment is etc.etc.
12:03 February 7, 2013 by McM
I propose that all parties be accountable.Simple enough?
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