News in brief

April 21, 2011

South Africa

Not in my name

Two South African universities have vowed to prosecute anyone found to have used a bogus degree issued in their name. The universities of Johannesburg and Cape Town acted after discovering that fake "degrees" from the institutions were being sold online for as little as $200 (£123), the South African Times reported. Aart Boessenkool, joint head of the business management department at Johannesburg, said: "To ensure the continued integrity of our degrees and diplomas, we have joined forces with a degree verification service company, which can instantly detect whether a degree is genuine or fake. In the event of its being fake, we will prosecute the individual for fraud and bringing (our) good name into disrepute." Hugh Amoore, registrar at Cape Town, added: "It is a worldwide problem. It's not only South African universities that are being targeted by these degree mills."


Plagiarism: a private matter?

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who stepped down as Germany's defence minister in March over claims that he had plagiarised parts of his doctoral thesis, is reported to be trying to stop his alma mater releasing the findings of an internal investigation. In his resignation statement, Mr Guttenberg admitted to making "errors". Having promised Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, that he would provide a full explanation of the circumstances, he does not want the University of Bayreuth's report made public, the German-English newspaper The Local reported. His lawyers have argued that releasing the report would breach Mr Guttenberg's privacy. The university said: "We want to make the conclusions public. There is a strong public interest in the university's appraisal of the case."

United States

Lap dance enlivens ethics lecture

An assistant professor at a US university has been suspended after he allegedly hired strippers for one of his seminars. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported claims by two students that Jack Rappaport, who teaches statistics at La Salle University's business school, brought scantily clad women into the class. Throughout the lecture on "the application of Platonic and Hegelian ethics to business", the strippers reportedly gave lap dances to Professor Rappaport and willing students - who had paid $150 (£92) to attend. Two other students disputed the claims, saying that no suggestive dancing had occurred. La Salle said it had begun a "full-scale investigation into what took place and who was responsible".


Borrowed, now blue

A senior manager at a leading Australian university has had his doctorate revoked after being found guilty of plagiarism. Julian Bondy, who was deputy dean of RMIT's School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, resigned last November when the initial allegations were raised. The accusations were upheld after an investigation, and his doctorate has now been revoked. Mr Bondy had also been a director of teaching and learning at the school and was responsible for student plagiarism and discipline. The Australian newspaper reported that he had denied any wrongdoing and may contest the decision, claiming that he has been treated unfairly. Daine Alcorn, RMIT's deputy vice-chancellor for research and innovation, said: "Rare instances such as this demonstrate just how seriously the university treats plagiarism."


Formula for conspiracy

Prosecutors in Turkey are investigating claims of cheating and favouritism in the annual national university entrance examination. Suspicions were raised after a lawyer discovered a formula for reaching correct answers in a multiple-choice maths exam, Associated Press reported. The discovery led some to speculate that the state agency overseeing the exams was attempting to help pro-government students. It is unclear how many, if any, of the 1.7 million exam candidates benefited from the alleged scam. However, news of the discovery led to student protests against the examination board in several cities. The government has denied any involvement, and prosecutors have begun a probe. Ali Demir, head of the examination institution, said the formula was valid only for mock exam questions made available to the media after the test.

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