Spain's degree scandal shines light on its 'titulitis' epidemic
Spain Spain's degree scandal shines light on its 'titulitis' epidemic
The prime minister is the latest politician to have his educational history scrutinised
Spainâs prime minister, Pedro SÃ¡nchez, has published his doctoral thesis online in an effort to put an end to allegations of plagiarism and distance himself from the degree scandal that has dogge d some of the countryâs most high-profile politicians.
SÃ¡nchez, whose socialist party came to power in June after ousting the corruption-mired conservative government of Mariano Rajoy, has become the most senior political figure to find their educational history under intense scrutiny.
On Tuesday night, the health minister, Carmen MontÃ³n, resigned following a series of reports detailing irregularities in her masterâs degree, which was awarded by the public King Juan Carlos University (URJC) in Madrid seven years ago.
Pablo Casado, who succeeded Rajoy as leader of the Peopleâs party (PP), is also facing questions over this post-graduate qualifications.
The prime ministerâs thesis â" submitted in 2012 and entitled Innovations in Spanish economic diplomacy: public sector analysis (2000-2012) â" is the latest work to be pored over by opposition parties and the Spanish media.
In several articles this week, the conservative daily ABC accused SÃ¡nchez of plagiarising official reports, other authors, and his own co-written works.
Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Citizens party, urged the prime minister to make his thesis public, saying there were âreasonable doubtsâ over the work.
SÃ¡nchez reacted angrily to the accusations on Thursday, dismissing them as âcompletely falseâ and threatening legal action âto defend my honour and dignityâ if the articles were not corrected.
He also announced that his thesis, written while he taught economics at the private Camilo JosÃ© Cela University, would be available online on Friday for all to see.
âNo matter how much they try to smear me, I am proud of my university thesis,â he wrote on Facebook. âThey will not tarnish something that cost me so much work.â
Before the thesis was posted electronically, the Spanish government issued a statement saying the text had been run through two plagiarism detection programmes â" Turni tin and PlagScan â" and had âcomfortably passedâ both.
SÃ¡nchezâs PSOE party may have been the focus of the latest round of the so-called âmastergateâ scandal, but the issue could yet inflict further damage on the PP.
Earlier this year, it emerged the postgraduate degree Casado claims to hold from Harvard had in fact been earned by attending a four-day course in Madrid.
The conservative leader has also admitted he was awarded a masterâs degree in public regional law by the URJC â" the same university that awarded MontÃ³n her degree â" despite not being required to attend classes or take exams.
Spainâs supreme court is currently looking into Casadoâs masterâs degree and is due to determine whether the investigation should continue. The PP has stressed that the allegations that Casado faces are very different from those that brought down the health minister, pointing out that its leader has not been accused of falsification or plagiaris m.
But the PSOE has tried to focus the spotlight on Casado, calling for his resignation and claiming âheâd have been charged by nowâ if he did not enjoy the judicial privileges of being an MP.
Nor is Casado the only senior PP member whose masterâs from the URJC has been questioned.
Cristina Cifuentes, the PP head of Madridâs regional government, had faced growing pressure to quit over allegations of irregularities in her masterâs before she stepped down in April after video footage emerged of her apparently being caught stealing two tubs of face cream seven years ago.
Observers say the âmastergateâ affair also speaks volumes about the ubiquity of titulitis â" the drive to accumulate qualifications â" in Spanish politics.
âThere seems to be a need for certain politicians to prove that they have the merits to be in politics,â said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at the political risk advisory firm Teneo Intelligence.
âBut you donât need to be qualified to be a good politician; for example you donât need to be a political scientist to be a politician.â
Pablo SimÃ³n, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, said the spread of titulitis was down to both economics and politics.
âUniversities have been hit by a continuous series of cuts and funding reductions, and many departments depend on masterâs courses to bring in additional resources,â he said. âThe income of lots of university teachers depends on the success of these courses and that can end up in blatant cases of cronyism or bringing standards right down.â
In the political sphere, said SimÃ³n, people tended to try use qualifications to justify their appointments to certain jobs.
âPeople get put in their roles because of their proximity to the leader, which makes them seek out additional legitimacy through qualifications.â
However, Barroso said the current seri es of scandals could serve to bring greater transparency to what had previously been an opaque area.
âWe know that some years ago, after the [economic] crisis, some politicians were changing their CVs. It was mentioned but nobody cared. Now, the level of scrutiny by the media is so high that the threshold has gone up. And I think thatâs extremely healthy for democracy. Holding politicians accountable isnât only about their actions, but also about what they claim to be.âTopics
- Pedro SÃ¡nchez
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