Annette Schavan

Laurence Chaperon/Wikimedia Commons

Annette Schavan

Former German Minister Drops Her Fight to Reclaim Ph.D.

Kai is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine based in Berlin, Germany.

BERLIN—Former German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan is giving up her fight to keep her Ph.D. title, she announced today on her website. It marks the end of one of the most hotly debated plagiarism cases here in recent years.

Schavan was awarded the degree in educational science at the University of Düsseldorf after completing her dissertation in 1980. More than 30 years later, Schavan, by then the nation's education and research minister, was charged with plagiarism by an anonymous accuser who posted an analysis of the dissertation online. The University of Düsseldorf investigated and in February 2013 revoked the degree. Just 4 days later, Schavan resigned.

But the wrangling continued even after her resignation. Although Schavan acknowledged mistakes in her dissertation, she denied any intent to mislead and took her case to court. Last month, the Düsseldorf Administrative Court ruled that the university's action "was taken in compliance with the law." Schavan had taken several passages from secondary sources without citing them correctly, the court found. "After being able to think about the judgment … for a few days, I have decided not to appeal and to end the legal fighting," Schavan wrote in the statement on her home page. "Now I am preparing for new challenges and am looking forward to them." Schavan, a devout Catholic, has been tapped as Germany's ambassador to the Vatican.

By tomorrow, however, Schavan will be able to claim another advanced degree: The University of Lübeck, which Schavan helped rescue from recent financial woes, is bestowing on her an honorary doctorate.

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