Posts Tagged ‘Guttenberg fraud’

Price of a PhD in Germany: €10,000 – €30,000

February 23, 2011

Between 500 and 700 PhD degrees awarded in Germany every year are illegitimate. The days when Ph.D. degrees were mainly awarded to scientists and scholars in Germany are long gone. The title is in high demand among managers, lawyers and politicians – many with little time for the required research writes Deutsche Welle.

The zu Googleberg affaire has focused the spotlight on Germany’s new PhD consultantcy industry. New cases of corrupt practices are being found regularly.

One former law professor from Hanover, for example, is currently serving three years in prison after he was found guilty of issuing doctoral titles in exchange for bribes and sexual favors in 2009. It seems the prestige and the higher salary an academic title confers is a temptation some career-minded Germans find difficult to pass up.

Guttenberg is hardly alone when it comes to ambitious people with high goals battling time restraints. In German corporate circles, where a Ph.D. means more status and a higher salary, busy managers have little time to study. While the defense minister stands accused of failing to provide the proper attribution for certain passages of his thesis, others have been known to turn to a relatively small industry of so-called “doctorate consultants.”

The consultants demand anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 euros to help aspiring doctorate holders with all the formalities and contacts needed to be accepted into a Ph.D. program – and more. It’s the “more” that can cause problems, however. Doctorate consultants specialize in providing assistance in labor-intensive areas such as research and writing – tasks Ph.D. aspirants are normally expected to master on their own.

“We’re aware of the criticism of our line of business but we aren’t doing anything criminal,” said Thomas Nemet from ACAD Write, a company that employs around 250 staff and serves a customer base of 1,500.

“Our clients are mostly managers, lawyers and others in the medical profession, who have little time. We help them optimize their time to earn a Ph.D. But let me make one point very clear, we don’t sell doctorate degrees.” Some of his rivals in the doctorate consulting branch, like the “Institut für Wissenschaftsberatung” in Bergisch Gladbach, have been accused of doing exactly that, however, by paying large bribes to corrupt professors. …..

Manuel Rene Theisen, an economics professor at the Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich, estimates that between two and three percent of the Ph.D. degrees awarded in Germany are illegitimate. So that’s between 500 and 700 degrees annually.

Time Magazine reported in 2009:

…. German prosecutors revealed that they are investigating around 100 academics at some of the country’s top universities on the suspicion that they granted doctorates to dozens of unqualified students after taking bribes from a consultancy firm. The investigation follows a raid on an academic consultancy called the Institute for Scientific Counselling in the western town of Bergisch Gladbach in March 2008. .. Prosecutors in the city of Cologne say the institute helped doctoral candidates find a supervisor and paid lecturers to take on Ph.D. students. “Some Ph.D. students paid up to $30,000 to get their doctor titles,” Günther Feld, a senior prosecutor in Cologne tells TIME. “Many people had received mediocre results in exams and they weren’t eligible to do a Ph.D. in the first place.”

Leibnitz Universität Hannover

…. One former director of the Bergisch Gladbach consultancy was convicted on bribery charges in July 2008 and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He was found guilty of illegally helping more than 60 students get their doctor titles. A law professor at the University of Hanover who received money from the consultancy for accepting doctoral candidates was given a three-year jail sentence. ….. “We recently stripped nine Ph.D. holders of their titles,” Henning Radtke, Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Hanover. Those students are now appealing the decision.
“The investigation in Cologne is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Manuel René Theisen, professor of business administration at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. “Around a dozen academic consultancies have been on the market for years offering Ph.D.s for money.” Theisen says he estimates that of the 25,000 doctorates awarded each year in Germany, up to 1,000 are obtained through illicit means. “The consultancies advertise in trade magazines and they pretend to offer coaching for would-be Ph.D. students, but it’s a fairy tale,” he says. “People know when they read the adverts they can get their Ph.D. for money and not for their [academic] work.”

The Googleberg affaire might accelerate the decline of the reputation of German PhD’s. On the other hand if it leads to more rigorous award processes it could help in restoring some of the shine that a German PhD once conferred — but that is by no means certain.


Googleberg affaire: Loss of reputation could hit Bayreuth students

February 22, 2011

University of Bayreuth’s President Rüdiger Bormann sees “zu Googleberg’s” letter to the University requesting that his doctorate be withdrawn as an admission of guilt says Welt Online. Whether the plagiarist could retain his academic title or not, was not his decision, but solely the responsibility of the Examination Board. “The request to withdraw his doctorate, does not relieve the Commission from making an assessment of the incident.”

In addition to the thousands of jokes now circulating about Guttenberg, the University of Bayreuth is also getting its share of criticism and ridicule. “The University with a special mailbox where inadvertently or unfairly acquired doctorates can be resubmitted anonymously. “

Bayreuth’s commission of self-regulation for science currently consists of Professors Stephan Rixen, Nuri Aksel, Wiebke Putz-Osterloh and Paul Rösch. “Cases like this have never happened”. Never during his term of office has the examination committee had to meet, protested President Bormann. Bormann was only appointed in 2009 but the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Economics, Markus Möstl also asserted “In Bayreuth university circles, no one can recall the denial of a doctoral degree”.

However, Borman admits that in the Law School theses have not always been checked for plagiarism. Computer programs to detect plagiarism would be used only for “suspicious” cases.

But there are many students at the University who are irritated and depressed. They are now questioning how such a set piece of work could have been awarded a “Summa cum laude” stamp.  Students were concerned about the reputation of their degrees, accuses the student chairman Benjamin Horn. They fear, that as Bayreuth students they will be disadvantaged in their search for jobs.

And the University is obviously very sensitive to being accused of giving undue favours. They declared that the management had immediately checked and that the University had not received any donations from the Guttenberg family.

The University cannot escape some ridicule and loss of reputation. But as with all such cases where the actual award is less rigorous than the process to be proposed for an award of a degree, his supervisor for his doctorate bears a large part of the blame and cannot be immune to criticism.

“zu Googleberg”: PhD retracted at the request of the plagiarist

February 22, 2011

zu Googleberg on 18th February 2011:  “I will temporarily – I repeat temporarily – give up my doctoral title.”

22nd February 2011:

The University of Bayreuth says he has now asked them to retract his doctorate in law, according to German TV. Mr Guttenberg admitted that he had made “serious mistakes”. At an election rally near Frankfurt on Monday, the charismatic defence minister said the mistakes were not intentional but he conceded that they “do not meet the ethical code of science”. ….

Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Monday that she is standing by her defence minister, who is seen as something of a rising star in her conservative coalition.

“I appointed Guttenberg as minister of defence,” she told reporters. “I did not appoint him as an academic assistant or doctor. What is important to me is his work as minister of defence and he carries out these duties perfectly.”

He has a nice smile and he is apparently popular but the Defence Minister of the Republic of Germany, Mr. zu Googleberg is nothing but a liar and a cheat and a fraud. And Angela Merkel will at some point realise that keeping him on brings her own ethics and integrity into question.

But maybe it is just a continuation of the long line of German politicians with deficient ethics and little integrity.

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office”.
Aesop (~550 BC)

Guttenberg plagiarism: Germans fixated with academic titles

February 18, 2011
c. 2011: Axel Völcker,

Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff

The Guttenberg plagiarism saga continues while he has gone off to Afghanistan for a surprise visit – probably because it is less dangerous there right now.

Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff is Professor for Media and Computing at the HTW Berlin. She was involved in the BMBF flagship project “Virtuelle Fachhochschule” developing eLearning materials and carries out Internet- and eLearning-related projects. She also works on detecting plagiarism and has a plagiarism blog.

Following the apparently blatant plagiarism carried out by Germany’s Defence Minister for his PhD thesis, she was interviewed by which includes the folllowing:

What is your assessment of the Guttenberg situation?

What the rest of the thesis is like, and which chapter the alleged plagiarism is in – that’s another question. There are communities here who say it’s OK to plagiarize a little in your methodology section, but not in others. I think this is completely bizarre. Germans have a way of talking the problem down.The excerpts that the Süddeutsche Zeitung has online are scary, because they are one-to-one copies. And that’s not OK.

What is the real issue then?
This has to do with the German tendency to love titles, they are title-fixated, and people in politics love to have a doctor title so they seem wiser. But it should be about science, for scientists to prove that they can work by themselves – it’s the first proof that they can do research on their own.

Would you say there is a culture of plagiarising and cheating among German students?
I wouldn’t go that far. There’s a download culture. Young people download their music, videos, and why not download their thesis, because they just see it as busy work – something that stands between them and the degree they think they want or need so they can make lots of money and don’t have to work any longer.

She also writes on her blog:

Guttenberg, the conservative German defense minister from Bavaria, has left the country and gone to Afghanistan. They say this was planned, but right now, he’s probably safer there than in the streets of Berlin. The opposition is gleefully taking potshots at him (metaphorically, you understand).

His supporters accuse the scientist who discovered the plagiarism of being part of a commie plot to undermine the country, if I understand their tone of voice correctly.
No one believes that a professor might sit down one evening at the computer, in the midst of writing a review of a doctoral thesis that had been around for a while, but had a very prominent author, currently under fire for other things. The professor, Andreas Fischer-Lescano of the University of Bremen, poured himself a glass of Argentine red wine, looked over the thesis and put three words into Google: “säkularer laizistischer multireligiöser” (secular lay multireligious – the thesis includes a chapter on putting references to a god in a constitution).
And he got a hit. From an article in the Neue Züricher Zeitung by Klara Obermüller, written a few years before his thesis was published. Oops. He poured another glass and tried some other terms, and some more. Fischer-Lescano wrote a scathing review, and includes as an appendix 24 word-for-word passages that are not quoted and not referenced. The review will be published the end of the month in Kritische Justiz, 44(1), pp. 112-119.
A number of journalists have spoken with me today to question this way of working. How do I look for plagiarists? “Well,” I said, “pretty much the same. Except that I prefer Austrian wine.”

As a sociological phenomenon, the rise of the “cut-and-paste” culture together with the German love of academic titles is a worthy subject for study. But what does not seem to be in doubt is that Guttenberg is just another politician who is just another fraud. And a misuse of position – whether to get an academic degree or to amass huge sums of money – is still corruption.

Why voters continue to vote for frauds is an even more interesting subject for study.

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