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University to look into allegedly plagiarised thesis of Rainer Vakra MP

Rainer Vakra (SDE).
Rainer Vakra (SDE). Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

The academic committee of Tallinn University met on Tuesday to familiarise itself with the bachelor's thesis of Rainer Vakra (SDE). Mr Vakra has been accused of plagiarism. The committee has begun a procedure to have the thesis declared plagiarism.

The Riigikogu member's thesis on the implementation of the packaging and packaging waste collection and recycling system in Tartu is to a large extent
identical with a report by Säästva Eesti Instituut (SEI), today called the Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn, the university announced.

Not only did Mr Vakra's bachelor's thesis, submitted in 2002, match plenty of the paper in question, but references to the original are mostly missing as well.

Whether or not the university will declare Mr Vakra's thesis a case of plagiarism now depends on a procedure the committee initiated. The committee will hear different people involved as well as inspect the two papers more closely, the university said.

Given the "extraordinary circumstances" the procedure may take several months, they added. Weekly Eesti Ekspress reported on 13 February this year that Mr Vakra had very liberally helped himself to the work published earlier by the SEI.

The central part of the third chapter of Mr Vakra's bachelor's thesis consists of a survey of Tartu city residents which he claimed to have drawn up and conducted himself, but whose actual author was Keiu Ruus-Lepp, a student of the University of Tartu Türi College who was a contract partner of SEI.

Ms Ruus-Lepp likewise told the paper that she does not know Mr Vakra personally and that he was in no way connected to her own thesis.

Mr Vakra first tried to defend himself by saying that he participated in the SEI project as an intern, which Mr Moora has denied, and that the survey conducted in Tartu was his own, but then switched to explaining that he worked in parallel with Harri Moora and happened to reach the same conclusions. The politician categorically denied any plagiarism in his bachelor's thesis.

The university told Eesti Ekspress earlier this month that they have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to theses, meaning that if plagiarism is discovered, the university initiates the exmatriculation of the student in question, and should it be confirmed that Rainer Vakra's bachelor's thesis was plagiarised, he may be stripped of his degree.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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