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ERIC Number: EJ994869
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Feb-25
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
High-Profile Plagiarism Prompts Soul-Searching in German Universities
Hockenos, Paul
Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 2013
Rarely do political scandal and academe collide so publicly as they have now, in Europe. In February, Germany's education minister stepped down after Heinrich Heine University, in Dusseldorf, revoked her doctorate because her thesis lifted passages from other sources without proper attribution. Her departure came after scandals over plagiarized work took down a German defense minister, the president of Hungary, and a Romanian education minister. But it is the storied German university system, not politics, that has suffered the real body blows. The front-page news has shaken higher education in Germany, where, in addition to the two former federal ministers, several other national and local political figures have been accused of academic fraud. The incidents have left many wondering: Is there something rotten at the heart of German academe, the esteemed heir of Humboldt and Hegel? For two centuries, the German university as envisioned by the 19th-century philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt has been the model for research institutions in Europe, the United States, and beyond. Humboldt's notions of academic freedom, the autonomy of the university, and placing scientific pursuit at the heart of higher education continue to carry weight today. But his legacy in Germany may be growing somewhat tarnished. In Germany academic titles play a role in politics far greater than they do in the United States. Doctoral and other titles, sometimes as many as three or four, are prominently displayed on the business cards, door plaques, and letterheads of politicians. Some call it posturing--a modern-day "nobleman's title"--while others defend it as a meaningful distinction based on merit. Whether one is impressed by the degree or not, the Ph.D. has become a facet of the German resume that lures ambitious politicians and professionals who have no intention of entering academe. That has led to a proliferation of Ph.D.'s--roughly 25,000 a year awarded since 2000, more per capita than any other country in the world, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. By comparison, American universities award 50,000 doctorates a year, but in a country with a population four times as large as Germany's. Germany's output of Ph.D. recipients probably won't slow down, but the plagiarism cases have shined a spotlight on academe's time-honored methods for supervising and awarding doctorates, especially to candidates who are not full-time academics.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Germany
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A