Ger­man ed­u­ca­tion chief quits in plagiarism case

Univer­sity with­draws doc­tor­ate of min­is­ter, who de­nies al­le­ga­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY GEIR MOUL­SON

berlin — Ger­many’s ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter re­signed Satur­day af­ter a univer­sity de­cided to with­draw her doc­tor­ate, find­ing that she had pla­gia­rized parts of her the­sis — an em­bar­rass­ment for Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s gov­ern- ment as it pre­pares for elec­tions later this year.

Merkel said she had ac­cepted “only with a very heavy heart” the res­ig­na­tion of An­nette Scha­van, who has been her ed­u­ca­tion and re­search min­is­ter since 2005 and was con­sid­ered close to the chan­cel­lor.

Scha­van’s res­ig­na­tion comes only two years af­ter then-De­fense Min­is­ter Karl-Theodor zu Gut­ten­berg lost his doc­tor­ate and re­signed when it emerged that he had copied large parts of his doc­toral the­sis. Scha­van said at the time she was “ashamed” of that scan­dal.

On Tues­day, an aca­demic panel at Dues­sel­dorf ’s Hein­rich Heine Univer­sity voted to re­voke Scha­van’s doc­tor­ate fol­low­ing a re­view of her 1980 the­sis, which dealt with the for­ma­tion of con­science. The re­view was un­der­taken af­ter an anony­mous blog­ger last year raised al­le­ga­tions of plagiarism, which the min­is­ter de­nies.

“I will not ac­cept this de­ci­sion and will file suit against it. I nei­ther copied nor de­ceived in my dis­ser­ta­tion,” she told re­porters, speak­ing along­side Merkel at a brief news con­fer­ence.

Scha­van made clear that she was go­ing to pre­vent the is­sue turn­ing into a fes­ter­ing prob­lem for her party, and the government, as Ger­many gears up for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions Sept. 22 in which the con­ser­va­tive Merkel will seek a third term.

Scha­van, 57, a mem­ber of Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, said she had thought “thor­oughly about the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences.”

“If a re­search min­is­ter files a suit against a univer­sity, that of course places strain on my of­fice, the min­istry, the government and the CDU as well,” she said. “And that is ex­actly what I want to avoid.”

Merkel praised Scha­van’s “ex­cep­tional” per­for­mance as min­is­ter, adding that “at this time, she is putting her own per­sonal well­be­ing be­hind the com­mon good.”

Scha­van will be re­placed by Johanna Wanka, 61, the out­go­ing re­gional ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter in the state of Lower Sax­ony, Merkel said.

Doc­tor­ates are highly prized in Ger­many, where it is not un­usual for peo­ple to in­sist on be­ing re­ferred to by their full aca­demic ti­tle. Re­flect­ing that tra­di­tion, Merkel — her­self a doc­tor, as are sev­eral of her se­nior min­is­ters — re­ferred to Scha­van’s suc­ces­sor by her full aca­demic ti­tle, “Pro­fes­sor Doc­tor Johanna Wanka.”

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