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Top politician Laschet under scrutiny over exam grading

A prominent German politician and volunteer university lecturer is in trouble over irregularities in students' grades. Armin Laschet has told reporters that the exams he'd marked were lost in the post, so he improvised.

The deputy head for Germany's leading Christian Democrats (CDU) party on the nationwide level, and leader of the party in North-Rhine Westphalia, was confronted with a "please explain" by reporters in Düsseldorf this week.

This is the story which emerged on Tuesday: Armin Laschet, who volunteered as a lecturer in European studies at Aachen's renowned RWTH University for the past 16 years, said exam papers of more than 30 students had been lost in the post some months ago.

To save the students from having to repeat the exam – which related to a July 2014 field trip to Berlin - Laschet attempted to reconstruct the grades with the help of his notes and sent these to the university.

The unorthodox grading process may have gone unnoticed, were it not for the fact that some students who had not taken the exam - one of whom had submitted only a blank sheet of paper according to German broadcaster WDR - also received grades and rather good ones at that. At the same time, some students who had sat the test did not receive their marks.

Apologies and questions

"The loss of the exam papers should not have happened, and I am very sorry for that," Laschet told journalists.

The main entrance of the RWTH Aachen

Laschet had lectured at RWTH University in Aachen for 16 years

It wasn't yet established how such a mistake could have happened. It was also unclear as to what extent the university knew about Laschet's creative grading process, with the lecturer and university representatives giving differing accounts as to whether Laschet's solution was agreed to by the institution.

Rival regional party the Social Democrats (SPD) called the affair a "first-class scandal." The SPD's chairman for North-Rhine Westphalia Norbert Römer said students and the public had the right to have their questions answered.

"Whoever acts like this cannot become the premier of North-Rhine Westphalia," Römer said.

Aside from the political fallout, the university's exam markers are now only permitted to take copies home with them, something Lammert will no longer have to worry about – he's given up his teaching position.

se/kms (dpa, AFP)

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