June 13, 2014, by pressoffice

The fight for academic integrity in Serbia

With the aim of sparking a public debate on some of the most serious problems of the Serbian system of higher education, Dr Ugljesa Grusic, a lecturer in law at the University of Nottingham, co-authored an article exposing the current Serbian minister of the interior, Nebojsa Stefanovic, as having plagiarized parts of his PhD thesis. Plagiarism aside, the thesis also fails to meet the barest minimum of academic requirements. The article provoked a political firestorm and a scathing reaction from the government, with the Serbian prime minister himself dismissing it ‘as the most stupid thing he has ever read.’ The website on which the article was published was subjected to intense cyber attacks which repeatedly brought it down. The BBC, among others, reported on this story. Dr Grusic and his co-authors were later accused of being a part of a conspiracy against the government and even attempting a coup d’état, but they were also vigorously defended in social media.

The minister’s PhD was awarded by Megatrend, a private university in Serbia. The rector and owner of Megatrend, Mica Jovanovic, was the minister’s PhD supervisor. In his official biography, Mr Jovanovic has claimed that he has two doctorates, one of which was from ‘London University’ or ‘the University in London’. An article about him in a Serbian tabloid, written with his input, further claimed that he obtained his doctorate under the supervision of the ‘famous professor Stephen Wood of the London School of Economics’. Dr Marko Milanovic, also a lecturer in law at the University of Nottingham, co-authored with another Serbian academic from UCL a second article showing that there are serious doubts that Mr Jovanovic was ever awarded a doctorate by the University of London, let alone the LSE.

Mr Jovanovic was quick to dismiss this article. In response, he put up a photo showing his alleged London PhD thesis, with a prominent display of the LSE letterhead, as apparent proof that he got his thesis from this school (scroll down on his bio page). Dr Milanovic and his co-author immediately put up a response dismantling this rather feeble attempt at a defence, which actually corroborated their analysis. The LSE and the UoL started to investigate the claims of Dr Milanovic.

Meanwhile, a petition supporting the efforts of Dr Grusic, Dr Milanovic and their co-authors was launched that has so far been signed by more than 2800 Serbian academics.The English translation of the petition is available here.

Yesterday the LSE and UoL confirmed that Mr Jovanovic had never obtained a PhD from these institutions. The Serbian Minister of Education held a press conference on the same day in which it urged Mr Jovanovic to resign as the rector of Megatrend. Mr Jovanovic sent his resignation today. The story is likely to develop further. Dr Grusic and Dr Milanovic said that they hope that their civic activism would eventually lead to more accountability in the Serbian system of higher education. The Serbian minister of the interior still denies any wrongdoing.

This post was co-authored by Dr Ugljesa Grusic and Dr Marko Milanovic from the University of Nottingham’s School of Law.

Posted in InternationalStaff