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German education minister refuses to resign over plagiarism finding

February 06, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • German education minister Annette Schavan plagiarized part of her doctoral thesis, an inquiry ruled. Schavan denies the charge.
German education minister Annette Schavan plagiarized part of her doctoral… (Odd Andersen / Agence France-Presse/Getty…)

Germany's education minister defied calls for her resignation Wednesday after a university stripped her of her doctorate upon
concluding she had plagiarized parts of her thesis.

Allegations that Annette Schavan had lifted parts of her 1980 thesis have dogged her for months. The University of Dusseldorf announced Tuesday night that an internal probe had determined the minister had “systematically and deliberately” used uncredited work that was not her own. 

A faculty council voted to invalidate the doctorate. Schavan, who maintains the claims are unfounded, said she would fight the decision in court and told reporters Wednesday in Johannesburg that she did not plan to step down, the German Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.

The scandal swirling around Schavan is a headache for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who counts the education minister as a close ally. National elections are scheduled in the fall and Merkel's coalition narrowly lost a major state election a few weeks ago.

Schavan was among those critical of cabinet minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, another Merkel appointee who resigned after a plagiarism scandal that led to his doctorate being revoked less than two years ago. At the time, Schavan reportedly said she was “ashamed” of the embattled defense minister.

Some observers said it was especially awkward for an education minister to be facing plagiarism accusations.

“It's as if the finance minister were caught hiding his money in Switzerland or the transportation minister were driving drunk," the Bild daily wrote Wednesday, according to an English translation by Der Spiegel. “Until now, the chancellor has adamantly stuck by her. But this may have crossed a line for her as well.”

Merkel spokesman Steffen Siebert told reporters Wednesday in Berlin that the chancellor has “full confidence” in Schavan. The education minister said on Twitter that she would address the allegations in coming days after returning from her official trip to South Africa.

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