University Revokes German Official's Doctorate

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BERLIN -- A German university has moved to strip the country's education minister of her academic title after ruling that she plagiarized parts of her doctoral dissertation some 30 years ago.

A body of scholars at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf voted late Tuesday to revoke the doctorate of Education Minister Annette Schavan, a leading member of the governing Christian Democrats and a close confidante of Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a statement made available on the university's Web site.

The case against Ms. Schavan represented the second time a member of Ms. Merkel's cabinet had had such problems with long-ago academic work. In 2011 Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a leading member of the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union, the sister party of Ms. Merkel's Christian Democrats, left politics after it was revealed that he plagiarized parts of his dissertation.

Ms. Schavan was an outspoken critic of Mr. Guttenberg's academic failings at the time.

Bruno Bleckmann, a dean at the university, said Ms. Schavan's failure to attribute certain information properly had "resulted in the general conviction of the faculty council that the former doctoral student systematically and deliberately faked a mental performance throughout the entire dissertation that was in reality not her own."

Ms. Schavan has long denied she copied other scholars' work in her thesis, and a statement released by her lawyer shortly after the university announced its decision said she would appeal the ruling. Since accusations of plagiarism were first raised against Ms. Schavan by an anonymous blogger last year, the minister has enjoyed the wide support of her fellow Christian Democrats, including Ms. Merkel. One of her supporters, Michael Kretschmer, a member of Parliament, said Tuesday that Ms. Schavan was the victim of a politically motivated campaign, and called the university's investigation a "farce."

"It was an unfair process from the beginning," said Mr. Kretschmer, according to the news agency dpa. "The procedure isn't a scientific assessment but rather a politically motivated campaign against a very successful federal minister."

Nevertheless, the episode stands as an embarrassing political setback for Ms. Merkel before federal elections in September. "It's not just about my Ph.D., but my integrity," Ms. Schavan, who assumed office in 2005, told Germany's Südwest Presse last month.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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