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News 19 Jun 14

Serbian Universities to Probe Stefanovic Thesis

Belgrade University Senate backs independent university commission re-examining claims that minister Nebojsa Stefanovic plagiarised his PhD thesis.

Ivana Nikolic

The Senate of Belgrade University is to ask the Conference of Universities of Serbia, comprised of both state and private universities, to form a commission to review claims that the Interior Minister plagiarised his PhD thesis.

All members of the Senate bar one voted for the initiative, which came from the Faculty of Philosophy. The rector of the University, Vladimir Bumbasirevic, abstained.

“The Committee will investigate all the circumstances connected to writing and public defence of [Nebojsa] Stefanovic’s dissertation. If it determines the minister’s dissertation was plagiarised, his resignation goes without saying,” the Dean of Faculty of Philosophy Milos Antonijevic told BIRN on Thursday.

A prominent retired professor, Srbijanka Turlajic, told BIRN: “This means that the academic community wants to address the problem of higher education in Serbia.”

However, some maintain that the Conference of Universities has no mandate to establish such a committee.

 “The Conference of Universities of Serbia doesn’t have a mandate to examine students’ individual thesis and PhD thesis,” University rector Bumbasirevic told Serbian state TV, RTS.

Serbia's academic community has been shaken by the row over Minister Stefanovic, who is accused of lifting parts of his PhD thesis from other people's work.

The row followed publication of an article by three British-based Serbian academics on the site Pescanik.net entitled: “How to get a PhD? Easy! The case of Nebojsa Stefanovic.”

They claimed the minister plagiarized parts of his thesis on strategic management in local government, citing the relevant parts of Stefanovic’s work.

Afterwards, some professors from the University of Belgrade also analyzed Stefanovic’s PhD thesis, accusing him of breaking academic rules.

Around 3, 000 professors, lecturers, and PhD students in Serbia have signed an online petition demanding an investigation of claims that the minister copied his doctoral thesis.

Stefanovic and his thesis mentor, Mica Jovanovic, rector of the private Megatrend University, have denied the claims.

However, the rector's standing has been undermined by revelations that he falsely claimed to have obtained his PhD at the London School of Economics.



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