A local court in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna has reinstated Rossen Vassilev as rector of the city’s technical university, four months after he was sacked by the Education Ministry on grounds of extensive plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported on February 25.
The court ruled that Vassilev’s term as university rector could only be cut short if he asked for it or if the university’s general assembly voted to dismiss him.
As neither condition was met, the education minister’s order appointing an interim rector was “issued prematurely”, which also invalidated Vassilev’s dismissal, the court ruled, as reported by BNT. The court’s decision can be appealed.
Vassilev’s sacking on plagiarism grounds, in November 2018, was a first for Bulgaria, after amendments passed earlier that created the legal grounds for an academic ethics commission at the Education Ministry. The amendments were, in part, prompted by the highly-publicised accusations against Vassilev, which first surfaced last year and made by some of colleagues at the university.
Under the amended law, Vassilev’s doctoral dissertation and scientific publications he presented to be granted the professor title were reviewed by three arbiters. Their findings – namely that Vassilev plagiarised more than 90 per cent of his dissertation, including spelling and grammar mistakes in the source material – were the grounds for the ethics commission to rule that Vassilev was guilty of plagiarism.
Vassilev previously denied the accusations against him and the Technical University of Varna published a lengthy rebuttal of the ethics committee’s decision, questioning the motivation of Vassilev’s accusers and the credentials of the arbiters selected to review his dissertation.
(Technical University of Varna rectorate building photo: Powerfox/Wikimedia Commons)