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Annette Schavan, Germany’s federal education and research minister for the past seven years, stepped down from government after the University of Düsseldorf revoked her PhD thesis on the basis of plagiarism. The university decided to conduct an investigation following the allegation of the anonymous plagiarism-hunter “Robert Schmidt”, who claimed in 2012 that Schavan copied considerable parts of her dissertation. The university agreed that she repeatedly quoted without reference and stripped her of her university degree on February 5, 2013.
Schavan declared that she would legally challenge this decision, saying she neither “copied nor deceived”, and offered to resign as minister to protect her office, the ministry, the government and the CDU from the strains that arise when a research minister files a lawsuit against a university.
On February 9, Angela Merkel declared she accepted Schavan’s resignation “with a heavy heart”, saying Schavan has “made her mark as the most acknowledged education expert in our country”. A few days later, Prof Dr Johanna Wanka, the outgoing science and culture minister in the state of Lower Saxony, was appointed as new federal minister for education and research. Wanka will be in office until the German federal elections in autumn this year. She announced that she wants to focus her term in office on the ‘pact for higher education institutions’ (Hochschulpakt), as well as on improving the quality of teacher training, enhancing cooperation between federal government and federal states, promoting women in science and research, and boosting research on energy transformation and major endemic diseases.