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Article

Fake Academic Degrees in the 18th Century?

Educational studies. 2016. No. 1. P. 245-273.

Analyzing the most recent historical studies and sources dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the article reconstructs the fundamentals of degree awarding practices used in German universities of the Early Modern Period to understand whether they are comparable to present-day degree fraud practices. It examines into the academic degree concepts accepted in the pre-Modern Europe, analyses master’s and doctoral theses of the time, discusses the problem of their authorship, and traces back changes in the defense procedure as well as the historical and cultural factors which advanced the development of the modern doctoral degree. As long as social, cultural and intellectual transformations that prompted the emergence of the modern academic degree had only been completed by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the study considers it unreasonable to apply the currently existing academic and ethical criteria to the degree awarding practices of earlier historical periods. It does not mean fake degrees were a rare case or didn’t exist at all in the Early Modern Europe — it just means that academic fakeness was understood differently way back then.