The National Council for the Certification of University Titles, Diplomas and Certificates (CNATDCU), recommends the Education Ministry to withdraw Victor Ponta’s Ph.D. title, arguing that his doctoral thesis fails to meet ethical standards.
The institution’s Technical Commission, which consists of three university professors, analysed Victor Ponta’s doctoral thesis – “The International Criminal Court” – and concluded that it “fails to respect ethical standards and we propose the withdrawal of the Ph.D. title,” invoking Article 170 of the National Education Law.
According to that article, “in case of failure to respect the standards of quality or professional ethics, the Education Ministry, based on external assessment reports authored by CNATDCU, CNCS, the Council of University Ethics and Management or the National Council of Scientific Research, Technological Development and Innovation Ethics, can take the following measures, alternatively or simultaneously: a) withdrawing the capacity of doctoral thesis advisor; b) withdrawing the Ph.D. title; c) withdrawing the accreditation of the doctoral school, which implies withdrawing the doctoral school’s right to organise admissions for new doctoral students.”
The Technical Commission’s report was finalised and presented to CNATDCU’s General Council on Thursday morning. According to CNATDCU President Viorel Barbu, Thursday’s meeting met the quorum, and 34 out of the 35 members present voted in favour of the recommendation to have Victor Ponta’s Ph.D. title withdrawn. Horia Iovu abstained.
From a procedural standpoint, ex-premier Victor Ponta will have two weeks at his disposal to appeal against the decision.
The Technical Commission’s report had been forwarded to CNATDCU’s Juridical Commission on Wednesday and then, on the same day, to CNATDCU President Viorel Barbu. The members of the Technical Commission were elected by the members of the Juridical Commission, based on recommendations. In this case, the membership consisted of three university professors from outside CNATDCU, who analysed the doctoral thesis.
Ever since the Education Law came into force in 2011 and Education Minister Daniel Funeriu warned back then of the start of an anti-plagiarism campaign in universities, multiple cases of plagiarism have come to the public’s attention.
On 18 June 2012, the online edition of Nature magazine published the news that “Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has been accused of plagiarising large parts of his doctoral thesis in 2003, using publications without including exact references.”
CNATDCU, the only body that has had, since 1995, the legal prerogative to scrutinize doctoral theses for plagiarism, issued a verdict on 29 June 2012 too, but its commission was dissolved by acting Education Minister Liviu Pop. Back then, the members of the commission concluded that Victor Ponta plagiarised 85 pages verbatim.
In fact, on 17 July 2012, the University of Bucharest’s Ethics Commission unanimously decided that Victor Ponta committed plagiarism. Moreover, according to the Commission, Ponta plagiarised intentionally, plagiarised passages being found in 115 of the thesis’s 297 pages. The only commission that cleared Ponta of any wrongdoing was the National Ethics Council, which decided on 18 July 2012 that Ponta did not plagiarise.
Ponta ironizes decision
On Thursday, ex-premier Victor Ponta ironized CNATDCU decision to recommend the withdrawal of his Ph.D. title, saying that “the technocrats have solved the country’s main problem.”
“Ok, the technocrats have solved the country’s main problem – they too have taken away my Ph.D. (just as Basescu did in 2012)! I now understand (after this great victory) that everything will be okay – starting today budget revenues will grow; starting today we will start receiving the European grants we haven’t absorbed so far; starting today we are paying the farming subsidies, we are hiking salaries and pensions; starting today newborns will no longer die in hospitals and the eighth grade graduation exam will no longer feature difficult subjects; and starting today we are no longer the “merchandise” that the technocrats are selling in order to get a promotion when they go back to Brussels,” Ponta wrote on Facebook.
He declared himself “honoured” to have come to the Government’s attention.
“I am honoured by the effort that this big Government of technocrats has exerted just for me – an emergency ordinance just for me, a Commission just for me (when I received a verdict of non-plagiarism from the same CNATDCU back in 2012, another doctoral thesis was examined at the same time – I bet you don’t have the courage to reanalyse that one too); a final decision issued in my favour by the High Court of Justice in 2014 ignored! Thank you with all my heart, dear political commissars! And starting today I will work on a new doctoral thesis titled “The Fabulous Technocrat Government and Its Great Achievements for the Romanian People”. That will be fun!!!” Ponta wrote.
Liviu Dragnea: There is happiness in the country
Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea commented on CNATDCU’s decision to ask for the withdrawal of Victor Ponta’s Ph.D. title. The PSD President’s discourse largely reiterated ex-premier Victor Ponta’s reaction on Facebook, ironizing that this was the main preoccupation of the Government.
“I’ve understood that this was the main preoccupation of this Government. I believe it’s good news for many people after all. Several farmers have phoned me, telling me that now, after this “plagiarism” has been proven, they no longer need the subsidies, they don’t even have to go out and harvest anymore, several transporters said that they no longer need highways, roads, there is great happiness in the country. As PSD President, I’m telling you that this decision is debatable, because the same commission, with a different membership, took a different decision in the past. But I repeat, I don’t believe this should have been the main concern of a technocrat Government,” Liviu Dragnea pointed out.