BERLIN — German prosecutors are investigating about 100 professors across the country on suspicion they took bribes to help students get doctoral degrees, authorities said Saturday.
The investigation is focused on the Institute for Scientific Consulting, based in Bergisch Gladbach, just east of Cologne, which allegedly acted as the intermediary between students and the professors, said Cologne prosecutor spokesman Guenther Feld.
Feld confirmed reports of the investigation in both Focus magazine and the Neue Westfaelische newspaper, but would not give further details. The Institute for Scientific Consulting did not answer its phone Saturday.
According to the two publications, students paid between about $5,700 and $28,500 to the company, which promised to help them get their doctorate degrees through its extensive contacts within university faculties.
The Neue Westfaelische reported that "hundreds" of students were involved, and that the company paid professors up to about $7,000 when their clients had successfully received their Ph.D.'s. It was not clear whether the students knew if bribes were being paid.
So far, evidence points to the involvement of about 100 professors across the country spanning "numerous disciplines," Feld was quoted as saying.
Focus reported that the investigation involved universities in Frankfurt, Tuebingen, Leipzig, Rostock, Jena, Bayreuth, Ingolstadt, Hamburg, Hannover, Bielefeld, Hagen, Cologne and Berlin.
The investigation was opened last year after another probe of the Institute for Scientific Consulting in connection with a similar scheme.
In that case, a law professor at Hannover University was sentenced to three years in prison after confessing to accepting nearly $300,000 to serve as a faculty adviser to more than 60 doctorate students between 1998 and 2005.
The professor said he needed the money to renovate his Hamburg mansion.