Is using academic titles showing off unnecessarily?

7 March 2013
door Regina Coeli

In Germany, more importance is attached to titles than in the Netherlands. The Dutch sometimes joke about the Germans and their titles but in fact, when it comes to doing business with the Germans, they would do better to show more respect.

In recent months a discussion has begun relating to the importance of the doctoral title outside the university. One of the triggers for the debate on this subject was the recent media attention to the two German ministers who were obliged to give up their academic titles because they had committed plagiarism or had been careless in acknowledging sources in their theses.

Academic inflation

In some faculties, such as law and medicine, it is still relatively normal to do a doctoral degree. In order to distinguish themselves from their competitors, seven per cent of all degree holders go on to do a doctoral degree. The critics are saying that the result is academic inflation, i.e. there is an overproduction of theses.

Titles increase your career chances

The truth is that in Germany a doctoral title is advantageous for your career. Two-thirds of top managers working for large, listed companies may rightfully add a doctoral title to their name. In politics, too, they are very common, especially in Christian democratic and liberal circles.

Prohibiting academic titles

In an article in Die Zeit, Dr Stefan Bach argues that academic titles should not be used in passports and that their use in non-academic professions should be prohibited in order to prevent unnecessary title flaunting. In the same article he also explains the origins of this preoccupation with titles. In the nineteenth century, the bourgeoisie (middle class) was unable to oust the elite nobility from the high ranking positions within the armed forces, politics and top level management. So the middle classes retaliated by arming themselves with academic titles and taking over the way of life of the aristocrats.

Here is the link to the article in Die Zeit

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