University of Tirana and Ministry of Education Remain Silent Amid Plagiarism Allegations

 In the wake of upcoming university elections, researcher Taulant Muka published allegations against the Rector of the University of Tirana, Artan Hoxha, and the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dorina Hoxha, accusing them of plagiarism in their doctoral theses. Despite these serious claims, both the University of Tirana and the Ministry of Education have remained silent, while Rector Hoxha has denied the accusations.

In the middle, researcher Taulant Muka, Dorina Hoxha on the left and Artan Hoxha, montage
 In the middle, researcher Taulant Muka, Dorina Hoxha on the left and Artan Hoxha, montage
Plagiarism Allegations

On Friday, Taulant Muka released two formal complaints, alleging that both Artan Hoxha and Dorina Hoxha plagiarized their doctoral theses. Muka claims that Rector Hoxha copied his thesis from a Romanian researcherLaura Maria Stanila, while Dean Dorina Hoxha allegedly copied approximately 4,000 words from two Italian researchers.

“Mr. Hoxha, according to the findings in Annex 1, copied word-for-word the ideas, structure, thoughts, and bibliography of Dr. Stanila, presenting it as his original work without citation, committing numerous violations,” Muka stated in his complaint. Regarding Dean Dorina Hoxha, Muka claims she copied ideas, structure, and bibliography from Italian researchers.

Responses and Denials

Rector Artan Hoxha and Dean Dorina Hoxha are the sole candidates running for another term in the upcoming university elections scheduled for June 21. Muka’s complaints suggest that both should be excluded from the race and call for measures to revoke their academic titles. However, the University of Tirana and the Ministry of Education have not responded to these allegations, and Rector Hoxha has denied them in communication with BIRN.

Hoxha emphasized that the accusations were repetitive and insisted he had not committed plagiarism, although he admitted that the foreign legislation section of his thesis was not his original research. He maintained that his 200-page study was original regarding Albanian legislation.

“I don’t debate things that are already there... Mistakes and plagiarism are two different things,” Hoxha told BIRN. “There may be issues with references to foreign legislation, but that is not my scientific research,” he added, noting his significant contribution to Albanian legislation.

Lack of Official Response

The Ministry of Education did not respond to BIRN’s inquiries before the publication of this article, and members of the Academic Senate of the University of Tirana, to whom the complaint was also sent, were unavailable for comment. Dean Dorina Hoxha did not respond to BIRN’s questions.

The Chairman of the Ethics Council at the University of Tirana, Mihallaq Qirjo, told BIRN that the council had not been prompted into action by the Senate or any other complainants and stated that the Ethics Council does not initiate actions on its own.

Broader Issues in Academic Integrity

Despite frequent plagiarism allegations in the Albanian academic community, these issues have often been overlooked without resulting in penalties or revocation of scientific titles. Rigels Xhemollari from “Qëndresa Qytetare,” an organization focused on monitoring university work, stated that the verification procedure for academic titles had not been carried out, and universities refused to make candidates' self-declarations public.

Xhemollari highlighted that the only initiative to verify scientific titles, undertaken after student protests in 2018, had failed. “This is not an isolated case but a phenomenon that damages not just the individual or the university but Albania's image in the European Union. It requires urgent action from competent structures. We cannot seek funds with leaders who plagiarize texts,” Xhemollari told BIRN.

Call for Academic Vetting

The verification of the academic work of staff at the University of Tirana was one of the main demands of students during the massive protests in 2018. The government promised that this verification would be conducted. Subsequently, the Ministry of Education signed an agreement with an electronic platform to facilitate this verification, but the process was not followed through and yielded no results. In 2020, the ministry transferred the verification responsibilities to the university itself, but since then, no cases of plagiarism have been identified by the institutions.

Rigels Xhemollari reiterated that plagiarism is a criminal offense, regardless of the legislation requiring a complaint from the researcher or author of the copied text. He stressed that higher education in Albania needs an academic vetting process to “clean itself and open competition within.”
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