Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Pilsner law school: fast diplomas for money

The Czech newspapers dedicate their first pages to a scandal that is emerging in my hometown of Pilsen. The Law School of the (local) Western Bohemian University seems to be the culprit of widespread fraud.

The law school in Pilsen. My mother used to work in this building (as a librarian).

While the "magister" degree normally takes 5 years to obtain, about 400 people were able to get the degree in less than 4 years. Many of them have studied other schools and their achievements elsewhere could have been counted as part of their Pilsner adventures.

However, it is known that at least 30 people hadn't studied anywhere but they were still able to shorten 5 years into less than 3 years. Among the PhD students, the record holder managed to obtain the degree in six weeks. ;-)

Some well-known figures of the public life are former students and their schoolwork doesn't always seem to be OK. For example, the child-like former prime minister Stanislav Gross (social democracy) got a degree here and no one is allowed by the school to see his diploma thesis even though such things are normally publicly available. Mr Gross recently "earned" USD 20 million under similarly foggy circumstances. They bought a luxurious apartment in Florida, among many other things.

This mess that rules this law school started to be revealed when one of the vice-deans was found to have plagiarized a work by someone else. A closer scrutiny has discovered many previously unexpected kinds of misconduct.

It's pretty much certain that someone was getting money for the speed. Moreover, the speedy degrees weren't really exceptions: they seem to be a part of the design, meant to hide the illegitimate "speed enhancements" behind the semi-legitimate ones. The ministry of education has sued the school.

The lawyers should know something about justice. In their case, such things simply shouldn't be easily forgiven, and special bonuses to the punishment should be added for the risk that they can abuse their insider information about the law to escape. The people who are responsible for this mess should spend years in the prison - depending on their profits etc. I hope that if the hypotheses sketched above can pass some consistency checks, this scandal won't evaporate into oblivion as several similar cases have.

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