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Politics

University strips German Education Minister of doctorate

The University of Düsseldorf has revoked German Education Minister Annette Schavan's doctorate based on evidence of plagiarism in her 1980 dissertation. Its decision followed a probe begun early last year.

Twelve members of Düsseldorf university's humanities faculty council voted to strip Schavan of her title on Tuesday evening, while two voted against the motion. There was one abstention.

The council said it had found proof that the education minister, who had submitted her dissertation entitled "Character and Conscience" over three decades ago, "systematically and deliberately" presented intellectual efforts that she herself had not generated. The plagiarism charges also included her failure to properly cite sources.

Schavan, who was visiting Pretoria in South Africa on Tuesday, has one month to file an appeal. The German news agency DPA quoted her attorney as saying that the education minister intended to challenge the university's ruling.

Anonymous tip-off

The investigation against the education minister, who belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel's party the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), began last May when an anonymous user posted allegations online.

In response, the University of Düsseldorf's humanities faculty appointed an expert to investigate the charges, upon Schavan's own request.

In October, the German news magazine Spiegel published a report that indicated the expert had found evidence of plagiarism in passages on 60 of the 351 pages of her 1980 dissertation.

Schavan rejected the charges, but admitted early this year that her work could have diverged from standard citation rules.

Germany's education minister, who has held office since 2005, is not the first politician to be accused of plagiarism charges. In early 2011, then-defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after losing his doctorate from the University of Bayreuth on similar allegations.

The same year, the University of Heidelberg stripped Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a German member of the European Parliament, of her PhD, as well. Although she had resigned her post as vice president following plagiarism allegations, Koch-Mehrin retained her seat in the assembly.

Koch-Mehrin, a prominent member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), which is a junior partner in Chancellor Merkel's coalition government, later challenged the Heidelberg university ruling before Karlsruhe's administrative court.

kms/ipj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd)