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Bettel cancels university degree in plagiarism scandal

Bettel cancels university degree in plagiarism scandal

by Yannick Erny HANSEN 2 min. 01.02.2022 From our online archive
University offered Bettel option to amend his thesis, which he declined
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel
Photo credit: Anouk Antony

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel gave up his postgraduate degree on Tuesday, months after a journalistic investigation found that he had plagiarised the overwhelming majority of the work.

"After careful consideration, I have made the decision for myself to ask the University to rescind my DEA," Bettel said, referring to a research degree completed after a masters, usually seen as preparation for a PhD. 

"This is to remove any doubts about the merits of the DEA (diplôme d'études approfondies) and to avoid a loss of confidence in the academic work," Bettel said in a statement, in which he also apologised for what had happened.

Bettel has petitioned the Université de Lorraine, just across the border from Luxembourg, to rescind the degree "to remove any doubts about the merits of the DEA and to avoid a loss of confidence in the academic work".

Bettel's work as a student contained some passages that "could be considered a form of plagiarism" due to inaccurate references, the Nancy-based school said in a separate statement. Bettel had declined an offer by the university to amend his thesis so that he could keep it, the university said.

Only two pages - the introduction and conclusion - out of 56 in Bettel's work did not contain any plagiarised passages, a newspaper story published by the Reporter website found at the end of October, with twenty pages lifted directly from the website of the European Parliament.

Bettel saw his popularity drop by seven percentage points in a survey of Luxembourgish voters after the scandal broke out, although he remained in third place among his colleagues.  

"I did it with the right knowledge and a good conscience", Bettel said when the allegations surfaced, emphasising that both his supervisor and the jury at the university awarded him a satisfactory mark, as he did better in his oral defence than in the written part of the examination.

Plagiarism scandals have led several politicians to resign in Germany. Annette Schavan, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, stepped down in 2013 after being stripped of her doctorate by Düsseldorf University.

In 2011, then German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after his doctorate was rescinded for plagiarism. The same year, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a European parliamentarian, lost her doctorate award after an enquiry found "substantial parts" of her 2000 thesis were copied from others.

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