German defence minister defends claims on CV

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has defended claims on her CV of stints at Stanford University, after a report that the prestigious US institution called them into question.

German defence minister defends claims on CV
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA

Von der Leyen, who is caught in a storm over allegations she plagiarized parts of her doctoral thesis, issued a statement after the Welt am Sonntag newspaper quoted a Stanford spokeswoman saying she might have misused the university's name.

The defence minister states on her CV published online that she was an “auditing guest at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business” in 1993.

Her CV also specifies a residence in 1995 at Stanford Health Services Hospital Administration.

Quoting a spokeswoman, the newspaper said however that von der Leyen was never registered in any university program officially that could be proven with some form of certificate.

“Those who include the university in their CV without such certificates would be misusing the name of Stanford,” reported the newspaper, quoting the spokeswoman.

Von der Leyen however refuted the report, saying “the information in my official CV is correct.”

As proof of her stint at Stanford Health Services Hospital Administration, she included a copy of a letter signed by an assistant hospital director. As for the other claim, she said she qualified as an auditing guest “according to the definition on Wikipedia.”

Meanwhile, the Hanover medical school where von der Leyen had obtained her doctorate in the 1990s was examining the allegations of plagiarism reported by Der Spiegel weekly in late September.

The magazine claims that more than 40% of her dissertation contained plagiarised text – an assertion the minister has firmly denied.

A lot of value and prestige is placed on academic titles in Germany, and 3 senior German politicians have stepped down from their jobs since 2011 after being caught in plagiarism scandals.

Then education minister Annette Schavan quit in 2013 to fight charges from her former university that she plagiarized her thesis over 3 decades ago.

In 2011 then defence minister and rising political star Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after his doctorate was rescinded for plagiarism, earning the aristocrat the nickname “Baron Cut-and-Paste.”

Later in 2011, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a German member of the European parliament, was stripped of her doctorate after an enquiry found that “substantial parts” of her 2000 doctoral thesis were copied from others.