Germany goes for the doctor on our PhDs

A Nazi-era law that could have seen New Zealand scholars jailed for using the title "Dr" in Germany is being revoked.

After years of lobbying from the Education Ministry, the German Government has agreed to change legislation banning New Zealand doctoral graduates from calling themselves "Dr" while in the country.

Until this month, if a Kiwi PhD holder had used the title "Dr" before their name, they could have been imprisoned for up to a year and charged with abuse of a title.

The laws are based on legislation from 1939, when the Nazi government eyed foreign degrees with suspicion and required that non-German doctors be authorised by the Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture.

Only people who earned doctorates of philosophy or medical degrees in Germany were allowed to use "Dr".

The law was modified in 2001 to extend the privilege to degree-holders from any country in the European Union, and later amended to include those from the United States, Israel, Canada, Japan, and Australia.

The Education Ministry has been trying to get New Zealand on the list since, but German officials refused to change the law without "proof" it was common practice in New Zealand to use the title.

Last December, Education Ministry deputy secretary Rob McIntosh wrote with supporting letters from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and Universities New Zealand to seek a change.

German officials replied this month to say Mr McIntosh's letter had been backed by the German Embassy in New Zealand, and that PhD degree holders from New Zealand universities would now be allowed to use the title.

Steps would be taken to officially change the law.

The Dominion Post