Will they ever learn...? Now Berlin’s schools tsar is accused of plagiarism

Annette Schavan could become second senior German politician to be stripped of doctorate

Berlin

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s veteran Education Minister was fighting for her political life today after the university which awarded her a doctorate more than 30 years ago took steps to take it away amid allegations that parts of her academic thesis were plagiarised.

Annette Schavan, one of Ms Merkel’s closest Christian Democrat allies and her Education Minister since 2005, faces charges that she intentionally inserted borrowed passages into her doctoral arts thesis, Character and Conscience, without properly attributing them.

Düsseldorf University, which awarded the 57-year-old minister the title in 1980, announced on Tuesday that it had begun an investigation which could lead to her being stripped of her doctorate. A committee of academics concluded that her thesis contained evidence suggesting a “deliberate intent to deceive”.

Ms Schavan has flatly denied the allegations. Today she launched an angry counter-offensive demanding that a group of “external” academics be called in to conduct an independent assessment of her work. “This intensive involvement with the text of my dissertation only strengthens my conviction that it is not plagiarism,” she insisted.

Düsseldorf University maintains that it has reached no final conclusion and the result of its investigation into Ms Schavan’s dissertation remains “open”. But political commentators concluded unanimously today that if she was found guilty she would have to resign and that even a lengthy investigation would put pressure on her to step down.

Such an outcome would come as an embarrassing blow to Ms Merkel, who faces a general election in September. She is already smarting from a painful defeat by the opposition Social Democrats and Greens during polling in the state of Lower Saxony last weekend and her hopes of an automatic autumn victory have dimmed.

Ms Merkel has insisted that she has full confidence in her Education Minister, but if Ms Schavan is found guilty, she too will appear compromised. Today another leading conservative, the Employment Minister Ursula von der Leyen, leapt to Ms Schavan’s defence and insisted that she was an “excellent Education Minister”.

Ms Schavan’s case follows the ignominious fall from grace of Germany’s former Defence Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The conservative aristocrat was found to have plagiarised large sections of his Bayreuth University doctoral thesis. Previously rated Germany’s most popular politician, he was forced to resign over the affair in 2011. He now lives in America.

Mr zu Guttenberg was tracked down and exposed by so-called “plagiarist hunters” – direct action campaigners who make it their business to check up on politicians. Ms Schavan is their latest victim.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions