This case concerns a university in south part of Germany. There is a lady who has a full-time job in this university (she is PI of a group not a professor) and has brought several millions Euro to the university.

Now the problem is this: this lady has left Germany years ago and is living and working in Brazil, but in a very strange way, she still receives her full salary in Germany, and in fact, she is presented in the German university as she is living in Germany.

The case has been reported several times, but administration doesn't do anything. Is there any approaches or suggestions how to force university to investigate this matter?


One of the people in the university had told the whistleblower that the PI in question is a highly valuable person as she brings money to the university. So, it seems there are people in the university administration that are blending the laws and regulations for her.


One of her students had informed the office of the ministry of education of the state which university belongs, and the minister is incidentally a close friend of university rector; however, they forwarded the email to the university without any response.


I just learned that one of her PhD students has filed a civil lawsuit last week. If any result comes out of it, I will update my post.


4 Answers 4


There is no way a university would fail to notice that a professor is not present on campus for a long time. There is no point in "reporting" it.

There is no reason to think a professor has committed fraud or any other sort of misconduct by working from another location. Most people would consider the professor's employment conditions to be a matter the professor can keep private until she chooses to disclose it. Employment conditions are regulated by local laws; you didn't mention any that might have been violated. We do not even know if this professor is a beamtin.

If you are a student at the university, and you paid the university tuition to be taught in person, then you might be able to take action against the university but not the professor. I am not familiar with German law, but my understanding is that German universities usually do not charge tuition, so I do not see how a German student would get a refund or any other compensation.

Among the top 1000 or so most prestigious professors, it is not unusual to work for two universities that are located in different places. For example, Carl Wieman worked at University of British Columbia and University of Colorado Boulder at the same time. Fraser Stoddart works at both Northwestern University and UNSW Sydney.

A lot of scientists work far from their university because it is essential to their research. Astronomers, anthropologists, biologists, earth scientists, and many more do field work, sometimes for an extended period.

  • 2
    The typical case is that the professor has certain teaching duties, which are pretty much the only part of the job that is actually formally required. Since the Corona pandemic it might actually be possible to perform these remotely, but usually that was not the case. Failing to perform these teaching duties would be the only way to even start any efforts to remove the professor. I know one case that is a bit similar to this one, and that professor is careful to still fulfill these requirements, so no actions are taken as they are very unlikely to succeed. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 20:35
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    @MadScientist: moreover, teaching duties may be provided in the form of block/intensive courses in full agreement with university administration/department rather than a series of weekly lectures/seminars. Both employed and verbeamtete professors can negotiate part-time and still be full professor. Rather typical are full professors partly "freed" for a parallel position at some non-university research institute (see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemeinsame_Berufung). Or at a foreign university. The total amount of teaching duties can be quite low for the Gemeinsame Berufung, and while I...
    – cbeleites
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 10:38
  • ... don't know for foreign institutions, I'd expect that there's a lot open to negotiations in the end. (BTW IMHO it would be extremely unusual if OP knew the actual details of the contracts between the professor in question and the university and Land.) @AnonymousPhysicist: I'm not aware that a student at a German university has a right to receive education by a particular professor. They have a right to receive education that follows the curriculum for their course of studies, and the university must provide some professor who takes the required exams, of course.
    – cbeleites
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 10:42
  • @cbeleitesunhappywithSX there are certainly explanations that could make this arrangement above board (and we also don't know enough details here anyway). But I've also seen cases where professors simply stay away from their university without any agreement, still fullfilling their formal duties but with clear negative consequences for their expected duties like mentoring PhD students (the one case I mentioned has no PhD students or PostDocs anymore). Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 10:51
  • @Alice: sorry, yes, I misread. But: in the case of a PI there would be even more leeway for negotiations. I will certainly keep an eye on the newspapers, and if it turns out that there is indeed corruption (and I'm the last one to believe or claim that there wouldn't be corruption in German academia) then it's a good job you help to expose it! However, what I do miss from your side is an acknowledgement that based on what you wrote we on academia.sx cannot go further than saying there are a red flags that raise suspicion - but there's still the possibility that it's actually fine.
    – cbeleites
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 11:11

I have spent the last 11 years of my life trying to get German universities to act on hundreds of cases of blatant plagiarism in doctoral dissertations. I have learned that German universities are slow to act at best, and will ignore me (although I report in my name and I am a tenured professor) if they feel like it. As mentioned above, there can be many reasons for a person to be listed at multiple institutions, none of which are problematic.

Which part of the university did you inform? Generally, the 'Ombud für guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis' is the right place for reporting academic misconductct. Any other place will probably just delete your email, especially if you are anonymous. But again, living somewhere else is not misconduct.

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    Privacy is a really big deal in Germany. So it is no surprise that the university says that the employment contact between it and a third person is none of your business. They are probably right; the university will probably get in really big trouble if it violated the privacy of its employees in such a way. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 13:05
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    Privacy does not end when someone claims that somebody else has done something wrong. The university may or may not investigate, but they certainly cannot tell you. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 20:12

I would be careful about drawing conclusions here.

First, it is not that unusual for some people to have multiple appointments (especially if some appointments are not permanent), sometimes in different countries. For instance the thousand talent program in China sought to hire non-Chinese academics who in turn did not have to forfeit their original positions.

It is not unusual for faculties or PIs with multiple positions to negotiate flexible working conditions, including employment with third parties, including extended time away from a work site. It likely has to be reported but if this does not interfere with the current position then what can be done?German law might preclude someone from holding two full-time jobs in Germany, but does it preclude someone from holding another position in another country concurrently with a position in Germany? Even if German law does not technically allow this, can this be circumvented through a negotiated arrangement? In other words, it may well be that the situation is known and proceeds with full knowledge of the relevant administrations.

The key point is: is the job of the PI at the German place of employment getting done? If the answer is no, this is a problem for the employer. If the answer is yes, there is no problem.

Presumably if the answer is yes - the work gets done via remote supervision or someone acting locally on behalf of the PI - then what exactly are the students “complaining” about?

Now I agree this kind of arrangement does not make the PI or the Uni look good, but unless you are privy to contractual details between the PI and the university, or between the PI and the funding agencies, and that these contracts expressly forbid this, then accusations of fraud are very much premature. Unless of course the reporting misrepresents a situation that would be against the conditions of the grant or the conditions of employment (but would how you know this?)

  • are you sure you are sure? I mean: you know for certain there can be no workaround because you have seen the conditions of the grant (not just 2nd hand information about usual practices)? No COVID exceptions? If this is so then the thing to do is to reach out to this funding agency. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 1:00
  • dishonest may be very unpleasant but you can’t do much. If you feel strongly about this alert the funding agency: they might not have a kind view of dishonest people and administrators covering for them, even if their actions are not technically illegal. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 1:14

If I interpret correctly your question, then the university has been made aware of the physical whereabouts of the lady in question and has decided to not do anything about it. It is unclear whether you have standing, e.g. you are suffering any damages from this arrangement or whether you just think that the university is being exploited or that a law is being broken.

If you think that a law is being broken, it is actually your civic duty to report this to the police. If you think that the lady is being paid out of a grant when she is not doing any work, then you can approach the grant giving authority as a whistleblower.

If you think that there is some corruption (i.e. someone is being paid to allow something illegal and that the authorities are not reacting because they are being fed lies), you could try to involve the media.

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    "If you think that a law is being broken, it is actually your civic duty to report this to the police." Could you be more specific about what you mean by "civic duty"? For the vast majority of laws, you're at least under no legal obligation in Germany to report it to anybody if you find out that they are broken (there are exceptions for people in certain positions, though). Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 22:24

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