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Court rules that universities can revoke degrees for academic misconduct

The Texas Supreme Court in the USA has ruled that universities in the state can revoke former undergraduate and graduate students of their titles if they are found to have committed scientific misconduct while studying for their degree. The ruling was based on two recent cases involving the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and Texas State University (TXST), which were fighting for the legal right to invalidate the doctoral degrees of two former students. The former was seeking to revoke Suvi Orr’s title after an investigation concluded that she had falsified data in her thesis, which she defended in 2008. Orr claims she made a mistake and misinterpreted the data, and sued UT in an attempt to retain her degree.

The TXST case involved a former student identified only as “K.E.,” who sued the university seeking to reverse the revocation of her doctorate in aquatic resources in September 2016. According to TXST, the student falsified and fabricated data in her thesis, defended in 2011.

The two former students were successful in the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which agreed with their attorneys’ arguments that state law did not give universities the authority to revoke degrees after they have been awarded. But the Supreme Court justices interpreted the situation differently. According to them, universities can revoke degrees as long as they guarantee the student’s right to a defense and it is proven that the misconduct in question occurred while they were enrolled at the institution.