Germany's education minister Annette Schavan quits over 'plagiarism' row

 

Germany's education minister resigned today after a university decided to withdraw her doctorate, finding that she plagiarised parts of her thesis - an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as it prepares for elections later this year.

Mrs 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.

On Tuesday, Duesseldorf's Heinrich Heine University decided to revoke Ms 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 - I neither copied nor deceived in my dissertation," she told reporters, speaking alongside Mrs Merkel at a brief news conference. "The accusations ... hurt me deeply."

Ms 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 on September 22 in which the conservative Mrs Merkel will seek a third term.

Ms Schavan, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, announced her decision after returning from an official trip to South Africa during which, she said, she thought "thoroughly about the political consequences".

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

Mrs Merkel offered lengthy praise of Ms Schavan's "exceptional" performance as a minister, adding that "at this time, she is putting her own personal well-being behind the common good".

Ms Schavan will be replaced by Johanna Wanka, the outgoing regional education minister in the state of Lower Saxony, Mrs Merkel said. That state's conservative-led government narrowly lost a regional election to the centre-left opposition last month.

Ms Schavan's resignation comes two years after then-Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg lost his doctorate and quit when it emerged that he copied large parts of his doctoral thesis.

Doctorates are highly prized in Germany, where it is not unusual for people to insist on being referred to by their full academic title.

Despite the coalition government's setback Lower Saxony, in north-western Germany, polls show that Mrs Merkel remains popular with voters; her challenger from the centre-left Social Democrats, Peer Steinbrueck, has struggled to gain traction. Most recent polls show a majority neither for Mrs Merkel's current centre-right coalition with the pro-market Free Democrats nor for a rival combination of the Social Democrats and Greens.

They show Mrs Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats as the strongest single party. That suggests the chancellor may be able to carry on with a new coalition partner.

It's also unclear that the Schavan affair will provide political ammunition for the opposition.

The usually low-profile minister's troubles over her three-decade-old thesis have drawn a much more measured response from opponents than in the case of Mr Guttenberg, a rising conservative star at the time he quit.

On Friday, Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of the Social Democrats, described Ms Schavan as "a notably smart and, from my point of view, decent colleague."

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there