Former E.U. Education Commissioner Faces Ph.D. Inquiry

Ján Figeľ


Ján Figeľ, former European commissioner for education, is facing an official inquiry into the legitimacy of his Ph.D., awarded while he was in office. The Slovak Ministry of Education said last week that its Accreditation Commission will investigate a newspaper's claims that Figeľ's 2007 thesis was copied directly from a book he co-authored 4 years earlier.

Figeľ served in Brussels as education commissioner from 2004 until 2009. Among other duties, he was in charge of implementing the Bologna Process, which aims to make it possible for academic qualifications to be recognized E.U.-wide, and for launching the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. From 2010 until April 2012, Figeľ was Slovakia's deputy prime minister and minister for transport, construction and regional development; he's currently leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement.

On 5 August, the Slovak newspaper SME published a story that questioned the criteria Figeľ fulfilled for his Ph.D. in social work, awarded by the private St. Elizabeth’s School of Medicine and Social Work in Bratislava, which was founded in 2002. The dissertation Figeľ submitted was excerpted from a 2003 book that he co-wrote with a diplomat named Miroslav Adamiš, the newspaper reported. The work describes the negotiations on Slovakia’s admission to the European Union, which Figeľ helped lead. The dissertation does not formally credit Adamiš's role as co-author, the newspaper reported.

Officials from the school were quoted in the article as saying that they took Figeľ’s E.U. position into account when awarding the Ph.D., and acknowledged that having Figeľ as a student brought prestige to the school. The school later released a statement saying that Figeľ had fulfilled all of the requirements for his degree. The newspaper reported that Figeľ said his work was legitimate; the degree was in social work because the social dimension of E.U. integration is one of its core aspects, Figeľ reportedly said. (Before entering politics, Figeľ earned a degree in engineering.)

The ministry’s Accreditation Commission will assess whether Figeľ should be allowed to keep his Ph.D., and whether the St. Elizabeth’s School should be allowed to award doctorate degrees at all.