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Med school: top minister plagiarized her thesis

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Med school: top minister plagiarized her thesis
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA.
09:32 CET+01:00
Hanover Medical School on Wednesday said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen plagiarized parts of her thesis, but allowed her to keep her doctorate because there was no "deliberate deception".

Von der Leyen had been caught in a political storm over media reports that she plagiarized portions of her doctoral thesis, a charge that had previously brought down other high-level German politicians.

In a bid to clear her name, she had asked the Hanover Medical School, where she obtained her doctorate in the 1990s, to reevaluate the paper.

After months of examination, however, the medical school's president Christopher Baum said Wednesday: "The Senate decided... with a majority of seven to one votes to not strip the (doctorate) title."

Although von der Leyen was found to have plagiarized some portions, the committee found this to be an "error but not misconduct".

"It's an error in the form of plagiarism in which paragraphs of text were used without correct identification of the authors," said Baum, adding however that "the pattern of plagiarism does not point to deliberate deception."

The school's president also added these errors did not compromise the "scientific value" of the thesis.

Von der Leyen welcomed the result saying: "I am glad that the university has concluded after a thorough examination that my experiments for medical research were relevant and fulfilled the requirements of scientific work."

However, she also acknowledged that "parts of my former work do not meet the standards I set for myself".

Von der Leyen was also in the hot seat last year over accusations that she exaggerated her CV.

Three senior German politicians have stepped down from their jobs since 2011 after being caught in plagiarism scandals.

They included Karl-Theodor von Guttenberg, who was defence minister and a rising political star in 2011 but who was forced to resign after his doctorate was rescinded for plagiarism, earning the aristocrat the nickname "Baron Cut-and-Paste".

A lot of value and prestige is placed on academic titles in Germany, with the label of doctor being systematically included when identifying oneself.

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