Thursday, June 12, 2014

Serbian Soap-Opera

The Serbian blog "Balkanist" posted an English-language version of a text that appeared in Peščanik, documenting plagiarism found in the dissertation of Minister of Internal Affairs, Nebojša Stefanović.
In Serbia, many have obtained degrees of higher education through bribery or other connections. Such degrees are particularly popular amongst politicians and party officials. Therefore, as citizens as well as academics, the three of us have decided to conduct a detailed analysis of some possibly problematic degrees earned by some of Serbia’s top public figures. We’ll start with the most glaring and recent example – Dr Nebojša Stefanović, former President of the National Assembly of Serbia and now Minister of Internal Affairs.
The authors wondered, how Stefanović was able to write a dissertation in a short time while president of the national assembly. They investigated – and found plagiarism. Lots of it.

Premier Aleksandar Vučić rushed to his defense, according to the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse. The accusations were the most stupid ones he had ever heard. And since he himself has a doctorate with the best grade in law, he was in a position to judge. Stefanović's advisor, Mića Jovanović who is Rector of the private Megatrend University in Belgrade, also chimed in in defense of Stefanović. [This university, by the way, has been accused of being a diploma mill, as the New York Times reported, and has also awarded an honorary doctorate to dictator Muammar Gaddafi.]

Peščanik quickly suffered a "hacker attack," Die Presse notes [more probably, their web server was not able to survive the number of requests from the curious]. When they returned online, they reported that they wanted to investigate one of Jovanović's two dissertations, the one supposedly granted from the University of London. Unfortunately, the thesis cannot be found. They even asked his advisor, Stephan Wood, how they could obtain a copy. Wood stated that Jovanović had studied at the London School of Economics and submitted a dissertation, but that the viva had been failed and thus the thesis had been returned to the author for major revisions. A revised version was never submitted, and thus Jovanović does not have a doctoral degree from the LSE.

Jovanović called this all a pack of lies, and has posted a picture of the title page of his dissertation on a web page of the university. Balkanist notes, according to Die Presse, that this only proves that he wrote a dissertation, not that he has a doctorate. The topics of both dissertations, the one purportedly from LSE and the second one, submitted to the Serbian University of Maribor, are essentially on the same topic. They offer, should he have lost his doctoral diploma, to obtain a new copy at their own expense. Jovanović need only give them a power of attorney.


  1. The saga continues: "The LSE has now confirmed in writing that Mica Jovanovic, the rector of Megatrend and supervisor of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s PhD, not only never received his own degree from the university as claimed, but was never even registered as a PhD student at the school at all."

  2. And here a short preview of the next episode: What will Mr. Jovanovic do after the Serbian Education Minister told him to resign?

  3. And here's another fun fact of the Megatrend University: According to its homepage, the two more or less famous twin brothers Igor and Grichka Bogdanov (or Bogdanoff) teach as professors at Megatrend University. And – oups – they were also involved in some sort of a scientific scandal, called the Bogdanov affair. What was is it again, what Serbians former deputy minister of higher education said about the honorary doctorate granted to Gaddafi? Ah yeah, it was: „[...] considering the quality of the university, it is not surprising that it awarded a doctorate to a dictator.“

    Some links:

  4. I hadn't heard about the Bogdanov_affair, the Wikipedia article mentioned above is fascinatingly detailed.

  5. Oh, that went fast: Megatrend rector Jovanovic already stepped down. Not because of his lies and his non-existing LSE thesis, but because some leading politicians „have doubts in my doctorate“. In fact, „[...] he will travel to London to retrieve the thesis, which he claims has merely been lost.“
    Yes, I'm pretty confident that he'll find this document... somewhere in the darker and deeper areas of the London library catacombs. Take your mine luminaire with you, buddy! ;-)

  6. Here's another dramatic turn of events in this soap opera (I can barely sleep until the next episode):
    "'I found all the documentation and it took me only 40 minutes, and these people needed 11 days,' Jovanovic told B92. He also said that he will return to Serbia with a witness who will confirm that he has a doctorate."

  7. The next episode will actually be broadcasted at nighttime, due to its bizarre content, namely a video showing young Mica and his former LSE mentor in the 80ies having some sort of a „scientific“ chat.

  8. You made a tiny translation mistake. Prime minister Vučić doesn't have doctorate (PhD) in law. He just graduated (i.e. has a diploma) law at the Belgrade University. With highest marks! That was his explanation of his competence to judge on this matter.