Plagiarising politicians and weekend Doctorates in the Czech Republic

The status conferred by academic titles in the Czech Republic is almost as strong as in Germany. Whereas in Germany it is the title of “Doctor” which is most sought after by politicians – as a stamp of public acknowledgement that one is a “deep thinker” – even a Masters degree in the Czech Republic can lead to the title  Pani magistra” or literally “Mrs Master’s degree holder.

Petty politicians appending academic titles to enhance their electoral chances is not of course so uncommon. What is surprising for me is that Prague and its citizens, who I think are extremely sophisticated and discerning in matters academic and who have a strong sense of the long academic traditions of the city, would be taken in by such nonsense.

And the mass-production of fake doctorates  by the law faculty of the University of West Bohemia (ZČU) in Plzeň  led to over 300,000 degree awards being audited in 2009! This even led to a Wikileaks cable from the US Embassy in Prague ( Wikileaks id #233660) in November 2009 about the scandal and reporting:

A joke is making the rounds: “What are you doing this weekend?” Answer: “Getting a law degree.”

Czech position  now reports that yet another politician is accused of plagiarism – this time for a Master’s thesis.

Prague district mayor ‘plagiarized’ his master’s thesis

… Two prominent academics who separately examined the master’s thesis of Prague 11 mayor Dalibor Mlejnský (Civic Democrats, ODS), due to suspicions of plagiarism, say the majority of the paper was indeed copied verbatim — and almost completely lacked citation. Mlejnský’s thesis titled “The History of Charles University” was lifted from two books (Jacques LeGoff’s “Intellectuals in the Middle Ages” and, more obviously, volumes of “The History of Charles University” by various scholars over the centuries, according to the two academics, who had been asked by the state broadcaster to make the expert assessments.

Ivana Čornejová, the head of Institute of the History of Charles University (who ought to know), and Jiří Stočes, a professor of history at the University of West Bohemia (ZČU) — which has had its own troubles in years past, with its law faculty acting as a “diploma mill” for politicians and police officers — also concur that the district mayor’s thesis was not properly constructed. …

…. Back in 1996, Czech “title mania” became a hot topic of public debate following a scandal that came to be known as “JUDr-gate” saw the resignation of half a dozen Czech politicians who had been using the title “Doctor of Law” without having the academic degree to back it up. Among them was then Justice Minister Jan Kalvoda (Civic Democratic Alliance, ODA).

….. But the biggest and most enduring scandal followed upon revelations in 2009 that the law faculty of the University of West Bohemia (ZČU) in Plzeň had been awarding fast-track degrees — to those who had plagiarized or not even bothered to submit dissertations; then Education Minister Miroslava Kopicová ordered an audit of all Czech universities to see if such practices were widespread.

…. Former Prague 5 mayor Milan Jančík, under fire for public land lease deals who could faces criminal charges for abuse of office due to other suspicious contracts he signed while in office, was also awarded a fast-track JUDr. from the Plzeň faculty.

Related: Plzeň law school scandal provokes nation-wide audit of over 300,000 university graduates


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