The German minister for education and research finds herself this evening with no university degree. After a long-running investigation into accusations of plagiarism in Annette Schavan's 1980 Ph.D. dissertation, the University of Duesseldorf today revoked the German minister's doctoral degree (link in German). Because Schavan completed her Ph.D. on an accelerated program, she did not earn any other university degree.
Schavan will challenge the university's decision in court, according to her lawyer. She is on an official visit in South Africa and has not yet commented publicly on the decision. She has previously denied any deliberate wrongdoing, but has said the dissertation contains possible mistakes and oversights.
An anonymous blogger first posted accusations of plagiarism in Schavan's dissertation in May 2012. Schavan then asked the university to investigate. In October, a report by a professor who was asked to evaluate the case was leaked to the press. That report found roughly 60 pages in the 351-page dissertation that contained passages that were slightly reworded from sources without any citation indicating their source. Schavan's degree is in education studies. Her dissertation is titled, "Person and conscience-Studies on conditions, need and requirements of today's consciences." Last month, the university'd Council of the Faculty of Philosophy decided to launch the formal process of revoking the doctorate. After a 6-hour meeting today, the 15-member council voted 12 to 2 to invalidate her degree. One member abstained.
Schavan is a close confidant of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has offered Schavan support during the ongoing investigation. Schavan's lawyer released a statement saying "the decision was reached through a flawed process" and is on shaky legal ground. If Schavan loses the court case, however, she is expected to resign.