Uggggg-ly. Paying off profs for doctoral degrees?

Aug 24 2009 Published by under Conduct of Science, Ethics, Mentoring

Writedit points to the following story.

Focus reported that the professors from a dozen German universities took payments of between 4,000 and 20,000 euros ($5,700 and $28,600) to grant doctorates to students.

Ugh.


and it gets seedier. There is apparently an intermediary company...

The magazine said the investigation was launched after the offices of the private Institute for Scientific Counseling at Bergisch-Gladbach near Cologne were searched in March.
The institute reportedly acted as a facilitator between the students and the academics.
The head of the institute was sentenced to three and a half years in prison early last year for acting as an intermediary in the case of a Hanover law professor who helped students obtain a degree in exchange for financial or sexual favors.

Whut? "sexual favors"? ooooo.
Well, I'm sure the students deserved their degrees, no harm no foul, right?


The professor at Hannover University was found guilty of taking bribes worth 184,000 euros ($264,000) through the Institute, and organizing degrees for 61 students whose exam results weren't up to scratch.

sigh.
More from the AP, Spiegel Online and telegraph UK which says:

The professors are said to have renovated houses, bought cars and taken expensive holidays with the proceeds of their "supervision".
...
Hundreds of students were involved. The allegation is that the company paid the kickbacks to professors and it remains unclear whether the students knew what was going on.
They were told simply that paying the money would "go a long way to ensuring their Ph.Ds were in the bag," said Mr Feld.

Yuck.

13 responses so far

  • DrA says:

    Man, all my graduate students have either been dirt poor or ugly, or both. But seriously, how do you get bribed doctoral degrees by an examining committee?

  • leigh says:

    the phd is supposed to leave you broke and desperate at the end (else i did it totally wrong)... but that happens through the process of earning it. not through handing out cash to "ensure" you get it.
    key word: earn, not get

  • perceval says:

    This is actually pretty easy in the German system, where the PhD is graded by the supervisors much like a MSc thesis - there are no internal and external examiners. You do have an additional oral, but again, that is a lot like the oral exam for a normal degree, so can be done with judicious cramming.

  • Uh, it leaves broke all throughout as well. I don't have that kind of scratch to pay off my examining committee. Seriously what kind of jerkass drop that much coin to a committee rather than just retake the exam (if they let them)? They have be either really desperate or really freakin rich. If its a case of the latter, I could use a sugar momma.

  • Mu says:

    The German system is different from the US as that after your first degree, you're done with classes. The only thing standing between you and your degree is a "Doktorvater" (doctor father, advisor) who supervises your thesis, and has the cloud to get three others to sign off on it. The defense of the thesis itself is usually a rubber stamping. This doesn't mean that there can't be very good science involved, but it's much more on an honor code basis. It's like graduate school after you finished your prelims, how many people flunk out of the program after that?
    Mu (Dr. rer. nat. some big German town, sometimes in the last century)

  • easypeasy says:

    From what I've read in German newspapers, this has mainly happened in disciplines like law and economy. You need very good grades to be allowed to write your dissertation. And the competition in those disciplines is pretty brutal.
    None of the cases I've read about so far happened in science.

  • bsci says:

    There's some lovely schadenfreude here considering Germany's policy of not allowing, non-German PhDs (now non-EU PhDs) to be called doctor because they can't vouch for their degree quality.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_(title)#Germany

  • Mu says:

    bsci, it's the same in the US; I needed my thesis "approved" again by a local committee on degree equivalency when I was trying to enroll for an extra graduate degree.
    The only difference in Germany is that the title actually becomes part of your legal name, so the degree recognition procedure is more formalized, and the default is "not recognized". As such it's also a felony to use a Dr. title without approval by the appropriate state education department.
    And quite frankly, I wouldn't mind if the doctorates of divinity from the University of Northern South Dakota disappeared from general usage, ditto for the NDs, DChiro and whatnot.

  • bsci says:

    Mu,
    The issue is that PhDs from some of the most respected universities in the world (not just U.S.) are committing felonies for handing out a business card with "Dr" on it.
    Specific doctorates are regulated in specific fields, but there's really no way to forbid people from making up a new, unstandardized degree and calling themselves a doctor (they just can't claim it's from a respected place or claim they are a medical doctor). Attempts to over-regulate something this basic ends up with embarrassing situations like what is now happening in Germany.

  • DSKS says:

    Britain's system is highly vulnerable to chicanery too. Even though an external examiner is required, this individual is invited on the discretion of the supervisor, and thus cronyism can and does occur (shuffling through bad candidates in the hope that they'll just fade into obscurity thereafter is not uncommon, because it beats the Dept. stigma of just flunking them).
    "The German system is different from the US as that after your first degree, you're done with classes."
    That's no bad thing, imho. I v. much like the fact that US graduate students get the opportunity to try out in a number of different labs before settling on a project, but saddling the poor bastards with more lectures is a bit shitty, especially after a 4 yr undergrad.

  • msphd says:

    wow. I'm surprised and yet, not really. It's so arbitrary at most places in the US anyway. I've seen students forbidden from graduating without the requisite X number of first author papers (usually 3 minimum)- while others graduated with ZERO publications. This in programs that are supposedly highly ranked, very exclusive, etc. And yet, everyone is awarded the same PhD.
    I think it's fucking fantastic that Germany and Japan are supposedly investigating these things, and that they're being discussed on the web where everyone can see it.
    What was that quote about shining a light? Academia has a lot of stuff shoved up where the sun don't shine.

  • alan says:

    Doctoral Nursing Programs
    Doctoral nursing programs are offered primarily by large universities. DNP programs are often designed to allow students to continue working while attending the program. They sometimes concentrate classroom time into two-week segments or into long weekends supplemented with online instruction and can be completed in a year or two. PhD programs usually take between three and five years of full-time study to complete and include involvement in research projects and completion of a dissertation. Students are typically required to attend full-time.
    Doctoral Degrees

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