Rector Mića, Baron von Münchhausen, or How the Minister’s Supervisor Misplaced His Own Doctorate

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By Dr Marko Milanović and Dr Miljana Radivojević

This article will not address the dubious doctorate of the Serbian Minister of the Interior, Nebojsa Stefanovic, except to say that we fully endorse the analysis Dr Uglješa Grušić, Dr Branislav Radeljić and Slobodan Tomić. Rather, we are interested in the minister’s PhD supervisor, Professor Mića Jovanović, Rector of  Megatrend University, who in defending both himself and the minister referred to the three authors as “so-called scientists,” saying that ‘it is difficult for anyone to dispute the work of the examiners’ committee, which included one Professor Park, one Professor Chanaron, the professor from the Faculty of Political Sciences Snežana Đorđević, as well as, if I may be immodest, ultimately me as the supervisor with all that I have behind me as a scientist. It just isn’t done, you know, for a petty student [đačić] to judge the Professor.’

As “petty students” ourselves, we’ve had better things to do than to pay much attention to the life and oeuvre of Mr Jovanović. Yet we found his immodesty intriguing. We could not resist googling him in an effort to track down his undoubtedly impressive CV and all that he as a great scientist had behind him. Verily, we were not disappointed: for the reader’s benefit, the Rector’s official presentation in Serbian is available here, in English here, and a somewhat romanticized (and hence more interesting) version of his biography is available on the website of the Serbian tabloid Press.

Unlike the minister, it appears that his supervisor has not one, but two doctorates. From the Megatrend University website: ‘He defended his first Doctoral Dissertation at the University in London in 1983 (Management and Industrial Relations), and the second Doctoral Dissertation (Organizational Sciences) at the University in Maribor in 1991.’ (NB: each and every act of violence against the English language in this text comes from the Rector’s own English website, so please don’t blame us). Professor Jovanović is more than just an expert in management.  He is also the president of a “General Cosmology Research Laboratory in Paris,” and published with two co-authors (a pair of exotic French brothers, both nothing less than chairs in cosmology at the Megatrend University) a book called Before the Big Bang. A manager and cosmologist both, our Rector. He would be the envy of Stephen Hawking — though I must confess that a Google search for his “Paris laboratory” came up empty.

But wait, let’s go back to his first doctorate “at the University in London in 1983” (in the Serbian version of his presentation, Londonski univerzitet, i.e. London University). Like our colleague Aleksandar Stević, we found that formulation suspect. There is, of course, the University of London, but it is unlike most other universities in that it is actually a federation of other, smaller universities within it, such as the London School of Economics, University College London, Imperial College London, King’s College London, etc., all of which have their separate departments or schools. For example, LSE, UCL and KCL each have a law school. No one, therefore, gets a PhD (or any other degree) from the University of London directly, but only through one of its constituent colleges or institutes, and Mr. Jovanović never specified which of these colleges he graduated from.

We had some spare time, so we searched through all of the central catalogues and databases for PhD theses in the United Kingdom that we had access to (e.g. http://archives.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/, http://www.theses.com/, http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do, http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/theses/index.html). We used different versions of his surname as the main search term (Jovanović, Jovanovic, Jovanovich, Yovanovic, Yovanovich). Then in an advanced search we looked for a combination of his surname with the graduation year (1983), type of thesis (PhD), title words (organization, management). Still, there was no sign of Mića Jovanović’s 1983 thesis. These databases are of course not perfect, and it could be that his thesis is there, somewhere, but has simply been misplaced.

We then remembered his romanticized biography in the Press daily. Unlike his official bio on the Megatrend University website, this article was of course the responsibility of the Press journalists, who may have made some errors. But the overall hagiographic tone of the article shows quite clearly that it was written with a significant contribution from the Rector himself. The article thus says the following (our translation):

Since he was thrown out of the Faculty of Political Sciences, in January next year [1980] Jovanović found himself in London, where – as a talented young scientist – he was awarded a scholarship by the British Council for National Academic Awards [CNAA] for doctoral studies and where – in November 1983 – he obtained his PhD on the topic of „work motivation in cooperative industrial relations“, with the famous Professor Stephen Wood of the London School of Economics.

Aha! There can be no doubt that these words came straight out of the Rector’s mouth – after all, what would a tabloid journalist know about the “famous Professor Stephen Wood?” Could it be that Mr. Jovanović got his PhD from that very same LSE as some of the “petty students” and “so-called scientists” (others are in the process of getting one), who challenged the integrity of the minister’s doctorate? We thus returned to the LSE Library catalogue  – but yet again there was no trace of the Rector’s thesis. Nor was it in the University of London Senate House Libraries.

Our only remaining option was to google the famous professor Wood and send him an email regarding Mića. Stephen Wood was for many years a lecturer and reader at the LSE, only to then become a full professor at the universities of Sheffield and Leicester. He is an academic with a truly impressive career, and was kind enough to respond to our inquiry. His response is reproduced verbatim (with some minor typos corrected):

I did not supervise Mica Jovanovic as a PhD candidate at the LSE. He was never registered at the LSE. He registered for a CNAA degree at Portsmouth during which I played a supervisory role, though I cannot recall how formal this was. He submitted a thesis and was examined orally and was not at that stage awarded a PhD. There were major flaws in the draft and major revisions were required. As far as I know he never resubmitted. I guess you need to make enquiries at Portsmouth. But I can say for certain that he did not do a PhD at LSE.

What then of Portsmouth? Portsmouth is a great port city some 100km south of London. Even if the future Rector and owner of Megatrend University got his doctorate there, this degree wouldn’t have been from the University in London, as he puts it in his official biography. Indeed, in 1983 Portsmouth did not even have a university properly so called, but only the Portsmouth Polytechnic, which became the University of Portsmouth in 1992. In fact, in his official biography Mr. Jovanović claims that he was a visiting professor at both the LSE and the Portsmouth Polytechnic, although it is unclear how he could have been a visiting professor before getting his PhD. And as before, there was no trace of Jovanović’s thesis in the catalogue of the University of Portsmouth Library.

Our final step in trying to resolve the mystery of the rector’s missing doctorate was to write to the central administrative services of the universities of London and Portsmouth and the Open University, which administers the legacy of the CNAA programme, to ask them whether Mr. Jovanović was ever registered as a doctoral student at one of their institutions and whether he was ever awarded a PhD. The CNAA replied that they do not hold information about any scholarship for Mr. Jovanović. Furthermore, the Records Manager of the University of London also informed us that there was no doctorate  by Mr. Jovanović’s from 1983 (‘We do not have a record of a PhD from 1983 under this name’).

The missing doctorate is but one of many dubious aspects of Mr. Jovanović’s biography. Some of these we are either unwilling or unable to verify, such as his claim that in February 2013 he was decorated by King Juan Carlos of Spain (since His Majesty had just abdicated, we felt it unseemly to bother him with questions about Mića). This was not, however, the Rector’s only medal – he has apparently also been “awarded the title „The Knight of the Fleur de Lys“ of the British Order.” What that chivalrous order is exactly we have not been able to establish, except that it obviously forms no part of the official British honours system and is mentioned only in some questionable books which inspired Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (see here and here). We were also unable to verify the Rector’s claim that ‘between 1983 and 1989 he was a memeber [sic!] of the research team of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on the project called „The Future of Work in Automotive Industry With The Focus on Manufacturing Process Robotization“. The only thing we can say is that a Google search of the mit.edu domain, as well as a search of the MIT Library catalogue came up with no results for Mića Jovanović as an author.

On the other hand, we can say with confidence that at least one of his claims is a manifest falsehood, namely that ‘[i]n the year of 2007 Professor Jovanović was awarded an International Socrates Award from Oxford University for the achievement in Science, Education and Culture.’ The University of Oxford bestows no such award. Rather, this is done by an independent company called the Europe Business Assembly, which has its corporate seat in the city of Oxford. The University has nothing to do with it.

But these are all petty problems (worthy of “petty students”) in light of the Rector’s mysterious 1983 London doctorate, although they do point to, shall we say, a very flexible relationship with the truth. Despite all of our efforts we cannot say with absolute confidence that the Rector has never obtained a PhD degree from a university in London, which is not the University of London (just like Megatrend University in Belgrade is not the University of Belgrade). But we can say that there are serious indications that he did not. The bottom line is that he never graduated under the supervision of Professor Wood, nor at the Portsmouth Polytechnic (at least our multiple catalogue searches came up empty).

The burden of proof is now on Mica Jovanović, especially bearing in mind that because of the UK data protection laws it is only he who can conclusively prove the existence of his doctorate at the “University in London” (whatever that may be) from 1983. As further evidence of proper methodology in this essay, we personally asked Mica Jovanović (email from 3rd June 2014, 21:32 UK time) to kindly send us a copy of his PhD thesis for which he received a degree at the “University in London.” We are still waiting for his reply.

If, in the meantime, we do receive a copy of his thesis, we will be happy to extend him a public apology. If not, it is likely that he will have bigger problems to deal with than simply being exposed as the Rector von Münchhausen and the doctoral supervisor of the minister of police. An academic who lies about the very existence of his PhD (even if he may have that other one from Maribor) compromises not only himself, but also the license of the institution at which he teaches, which he owns, and from whose (naïve and not so naïve) students he profits. All he needs to do now is answer a very simple question: Mr. Rector, Baron, Knight of the Fleur de Lys – where is your London doctorate?

Dr Marko Milanović is a lecturer (and from August this year associate professor) at the University of Nottingham School of Law. He graduated from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, obtained his LL.M from the University of Michigan Law School, and his PhD from the University of Cambridge Faculty of Law. At Cambridge he was a student at Gonville and Caius College (founded in 1348, with 12 (real) Nobel laureates so far), where he had the honour of breathing the same air as Stephen Hawking, although unlike the Rector he knows nothing about cosmology. His 2011 PhD thesis was awarded the York Prize by the Cambridge Faculty of Law as one of the best theses defended that year. The thesis was the basis for his book Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: Law, Principles, and Policy, published by Oxford University Press. Milanović is the Secretary-General of the European Society for International Law and a member of the Editorial Board of the European Journal of International Law.

Dr Miljana Radivojević is a post-doctoral researcher at the University College London Institute of Archaeology. Once a Petnica student at the Archaeology Seminar, she enrolled graduated in archaeology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, where she also obtained her Magistar degree. She continued studies at the University College London, and was awarded a master (MSc) and a PhD degree. The scientific (and wider) audience is aware of her research on confirming the existence of the earliest metallurgy in the world on the Vinča culture sites in Serbia (7,000 years ago). She is currently the main researcher on a large international project on this topic, which is in Serbia entirely funded by the British Government, and which represents the largest foreign investment in Serbian archaeological science thus far. Miljana’s scientific papers reveal revolutionary discoveries on the beginnings and evolution of metallurgy in Europe and defy traditional views of this phenomenon, which was closely related to the rise of the complex prehistoric societies (she also doesn’t know much about cosmology). As an archaeologist, she also does a pretty good job in digging through other people’s biographies.

A version of this text originally appeared on Peščanik.

Balkanist is an experimental, bilingual platform featuring politics, analysis, culture, and criticism for a smart international audience underwhelmed by what is currently on offer. Our aim is to provide bold, uncompromising coverage of the Balkan region and everything to its East.

  • helgesj0

    Amazing article; well researched and slightly unsettling in its subject’s creation of a reality designed to generate profit, rather than academic knowledge that might aid in moving his own country forward.