On Friday, July 15, Victor Ponta challenged the National Council for the Certification of University Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates (CNATDCU) decision to withdraw his Ph.D. title. The Council has 10 days at its disposal to analyse and decide whether it will admit or reject the challenge, Education Ministry Spokesperson Mirabela Amarandei stated for Mediafax.
Ponta filed the challenge at the Executive Unit for the Financing of Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation (UEFISCDI), as stipulated by the CNATDCU regulations. CNATDCU’s General Council will next appoint a commission that will analyse the challenge. The commission will consist of three CNATDCU members that were not involved in the analysis of the notification and who are not in a conflict of interest with any of the sides involved. The commission’s report will be sent for consultation to the members of CNATDCU’s General Council within a maximum period of 7 days since the challenge has been filed.
“If, during the time the challenge is analysed, the person concerned admits through authentic address that it violated professional ethical standards and expresses its agreement to have its Ph.D. title withdrawn, the CNATDCU President can propose to the General Council the withdrawal of the Ph.D. title without including the analysis and documents mentioned by Article 6-17,” CNATDCU’s regulations read.
Based on the commission’s report, the CNATDCU General Council upholds or dismisses the initial decision to withdraw the Ph.D. title or decides to resume the analysis procedure.
In case CNATDCU General Council’s final decision confirms that standards of quality or professional ethics have been disregarded, the Council will propose to the Education Minister the withdrawal of the Ph.D. title.
Withdrawal of Ph.D. title, proposed by CNATDCU after several years
The National Council for the Certification of University Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates (CNATDCU) decided, on June 30, to recommend to the Education Ministry the withdrawal of Victor Ponta’s Ph.D. title.
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.
“The Judicial Commission’s analysis has showed that the Ph.D. thesis does not respect the ethical standards of scientific research and has proposed the withdrawal of the Ph.D. title based on Article 170 of Law 1/2001. CNATDCU’s General Council has discussed this proposal; we’ve had a quorum (35 of the 47 members were present), 34 voted in favour and there was one abstention. In line with the Council’s regulations, the proposal was accepted and now a report will be drafted, with the minister being set to withdraw the Ph.D. title,” CNATDCU President Viorel Barbu stated at the time.
Ponta had asked the withdrawal of his Ph.D. title in 2014
In 2014, after losing the presidential elections, Ponta announced he had sent a letter to the University of Bucharest rector, notifying him that he gives up the Ph.D. title conferred in 2003 by the University of Bucharest. In a message posted on Facebook, he argued that this was a gesture he should have made much earlier, ever since the public accusations concerning his Ph.D. thesis appeared, however he did not do so because he considered himself to be of good faith in his arguments at the time his title was put into doubt and did not want to mix the purely professional plane with the political plane.
Ponta added that after he leaves political life he wants to write a new doctoral thesis, “respecting all the standards and requirements in force at that moment.”
In fact, in December 2014 an emergency ordinance appeared (OUG 94/2014) which would have allowed Ponta to give up his Ph.D. title on the basis of a request filed to the Education Ministry. The ordinance however did not clear the legislative circuit.
Anti-plagiarism operation in universities
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.