Helmut Schmidt, who as Germany’s chancellor from 1974 to 1982 enjoyed his share societal recognition and admiration, held that there are only two titles that a person should carry with a modicum of pride.
“The one is Herr Bürgermeister and the other is Herr Doktor,” Mr. Schmidt, who himself came onto the national scene in the city-state government of Hamburg, is reported to have said.
Ever since the former defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, was found to have plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation nearly two years ago, German politics have been rocked by a series of plagiarism allegations.
Mr. Guttenberg left politics in March of 2011 after the University of Bayreuth rescinded his doctorate. The irony that Annette Schavan,, the education minister herself resigned last month after the University of Düsseldorf rescinded her right to carry the ‘Dr.’ was not lost in Germany, where plagiarism has become the punch line to many jokes.
In Germany, the title is used outside of academia. A symbol of authority, it can be printed in identification cards and passports and is frequently used verbally as an honorific in business relationships.
Politicians use the title when campaigning. A survey by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung found that 18.5 percent of the parliamentarians in the Bundestag carry doctor or professor titles.
A doctorate can also help bring a higher salary in the private sector, even if the doctorate is not pertinent to the job.
Join the conversation. How are doctorates and academic titles treated where you are from? Do you think an emphasis on higher education makes plagiarism more likely?