US university accuses German defence minister of misusing its name

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An elite US university has accused German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen of misusing its name on her curriculum vitae (CV), according to a report by the German Sunday paper Welt am Sonntag.

The defence minister was listing stays at Stanford University on her CV without ever having been enrolled on any official programme or completing any qualifications there, a spokeswoman for the university said.

A spokesman for von der Leyen meanwhile told the paper that the politician had paperwork to back the information on her CV. The minister had attended seminars as a visitor and worked for the hospital administration on a voluntary basis.

She also co-authored a study on infertility treatment with an enrolled student, which however was rejected for publication by an academic journal.

In her CV on the German Defence Ministry website, von der Leyen lists a “stay at Stanford, California, US” from 1992 to 1996. She also adds “Auditing guest: Stanford University, Graduate School of Business” for 1993, and for 1995: “Market analysis, Stanford Health Services Hospital Administration.”

However, according to the university spokeswoman, activities like this did not carry any credit, nor was there any evidence that von der Leyen had been enrolled or completed any modules.

According to the institution, the defence minister’s activities did not justify the use of Stanford University’s name on her CV.

“She was not involved in any official programme for which certificates or academic degrees are issued,” the paper quoted the spokeswoman as saying.

The university would normally consider it misuse if its name was included in a CV in such a way.

Von der Leyen’s academic career is currently under scrutiny in Germany where anti-plagiarism activists have accused the defence minister of copying large chunks of her doctoral dissertation from other sources without due attribution.

The collaborative website VroniPlag, which scrutinizes academic works for cheating, found evidence of plagiarism on 27 pages of the 62-page dissertation.

Von der Leyen has rejected the allegations and asked the Hanover Medical School, where she received her medical degree in 1990, to begin an independent review of the thesis.

Doctoral thesis plagiarism ended the careers of former defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in 2011 and former education minister Annette Schavan in 2013.

One of the most popular cabinet members, von der Leyen is the mother of seven children and has been touted for years as a possible successor to Merkel. Before becoming defence minister in 2013, she held the position of labour minister.

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