German minister loses PhD

News | Vienna Review | March 2013

In May 2012, German Minister for Education and Scientific Research Annette Schavan was anonymously accused of plagiarising significant parts of her doctoral thesis. On 5 February, the University of Düsseldorf, where Schavan graduated in 1980 with her dissertation, revoked her PhD, citing the incriminating evidence of usurped passages.

She responded by taking legal action against the University’s decision to revoke her title, however, if the court decides to revoke it, Schavan’s PhD will be irretrievably lost.

After politicians and a large number of German civilians demanded her resignation, she tendered it on 9 February. Schavan’s reputation has suffered the greatest blow and the case will most likely mean the end of her political career.

In Austria, her dissertation would not have been examined by the university she graduated from, but rather by a neutral committee of scientists from Vienna’s Central Plagiarism Office (Zentrale Prüfstelle für Plagiatsfälle). Multiple German publications, including and Spiegel Online, have noted that the Austrian system allows for more independence and more time for evaluation.

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