Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mathiopoulos loses court case about rescinded doctorate

As Spiegel Online reports this afternoon, Margarita Mathiopoulos lost her second case against the University of Bonn in an attempt to regain her revoked doctoral degree. She received the degree in 1986, and soon after the newsweekly Spiegel published an article about plagiarism in the thesis. The university decided in 1991 that there was no proof that this misconduct was deliberate, and did not rescind the thesis. A thorough documentation of the case, including many supporting documents, can be found at the MMDoku Wiki.

In the aftermath of the Guttenberg plagiarism scandal in Germany in 2011, the VroniPlag Wiki academic community had a closer look at the thesis and found much more material that was plagiarized, both in sources that were known in 1991 and in additional sources that were identified. The University of Bonn was informed, and they opened a new investigation that ended with the thesis being revoked in April 2012.

Mathiopoulos, who is currently still an honorary professor at the Universities of Braunschweig and Potsdam, took the University of Bonn to court. In December 2012 the administrative court in Cologne decided that the university acted correctly. That court decided that no appeal was permitted. Mathiopoulos sued first against that, and won the right to an appeal. That appeal was argued today in Münster in the Higher Administrative Court, however, this court also decided that the university was within its rights to rescind the thesis. It did, however, permit an appeal to the Federal Administrative Court, and Mathiopoulos has announced that she will be appealing, according to Spiegel Online. Since to date the German courts have upheld almost all rescinded doctorates (when someone was successful, it was on the basis of procedural problems that can and usually are easily corrected), it will be interesting to see what the Federal Court has to say.

In another case at the Higher Administrative Court in Münster today that involved the University of Bonn, it was found that the university was within its rights to revoke the doctoral degree of the director of a company that was found to bribe professors into helping people obtain doctorates, even though the thesis itself has not been found problematic. This case, too, can be appealed.

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