The Slovenia Times

New Education Minister Faces Plagiarism Allegations


The right-leaning weekly said it obtained a copy of the 2005 work which it says includes whole excerpts copied from the thesis of a student who completed his undergraduate studies at the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics three years earlier.

While the 2002 thesis is available online, Markež's work at the conclusion of her studies at the Graduate School of Government and European Studies was obtained by Demokracija from unnamed sources.

Facsimiles of several pages selected by Demokracija appear to show identical texts down to the punctuation and footnotes.

The weekly writes that large sections of Markež's work on the role of EU structural funds in the development of the Podravje region have been taken directly from the 2002 thesis, but that the original author has not been referenced.

One of the sections copied in whole is the conclusion, writes the paper, adding that another proof of plagiarism is that 95% of the sources referenced by Markež are the same as that used by the undergraduate student in the 2002 work.

The minister has so far not been available for comment, while the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport said it was drafting a response. Prime Minister Miro Cerar's office said it was unaware of the allegations.

Cerar's SMC party meanwhile announced it had been notified by Markež that she had asked the Graduate School of Government and European Studies for a review of the thesis. The party said that nothing had been found wrong with the work in 2005 by the school or her mentor.

However, the school announced today that a computer analysis carried out in recent days found 37% of the work overlaps with other sources, which is why it has decided to conduct a closer check.

The school's dean, Matej Avbelj, suggested that such a high degree of overlapping was problematic, as current students are asked to amend their work when their proposed thesis contains more than 20% of overlapping with other works.

Avbelj also said the computer analysis software was not available in 2005, meaning that it was nearly impossible for the mentor of the thesis to establish that it was copied from elsewhere.

The senate of the school will meet on Thursday to decide whether conditions for launching a formal plagiarism investigation have been met.

If it is eventually established that the minister copied large sections of her master's thesis from another work, she will become the latest of several politicians to be tainted by plagiarism scandals in recent years.

In 2012, MP Borut Ambrožič of Positive Slovenia (PS) was found to have copied his master's work and was expelled by his party and became an independent. A year later, ousted Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler was stripped of his undergraduate degree when it was established he plagiarised his thesis.

Allegations of plagiarism also dogged former Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek when she assumed her term two years ago, but the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences subsequently found that the allegations were unsubstantiated.

Confirmation of plagiarism in Markež's case would add to the woes of Prime Minister Miro Cerar, who was forced to seek the dismissal of Defence Minister Janko Veber yesterday over the minister's contentious order to military intelligence to probe the sale of telco Telekom Slovenije.

Markež took office only on Monday, replacing Stanka Setnikar Cankar, who quit in February after it was revealed she made significant side earnings from the faculty at which she was employed as dean.

The opposition Democratic Party (SDS) has already said Markež needs to step down if the allegations of plagiarism are true.

The case also raises questions of vetting of political candidates, with the SDS and the opposition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) suggesting that this was foremost a problem of newly-emerged parties.

"In stable parties like DeSUS this is practically impossible," DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec argued on Wednesday.


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