It’s official. Budapest’s Central European University (CEU) announced it will launch all US-accredited degree programmes in Vienna in September 2019. CEU said it was making the announcement in order to guarantee that it can recruit students in time for the beginning of the next academic year.
“Over the course of 20 months CEU has taken all steps to comply with Hungarian legislation, launching educational activities in the US that were certified by US authorities,” said the university’s president and rector, Michael Ignatieff. “Nevertheless, the Hungarian government has made it clear it has no intention of signing the agreement that it negotiated over a year ago with the State of New York, which would ensure CEU’s operations in Budapest for the long term. CEU has been forced out.”
As reported by The Budapest Times, Ignatieff also said this is unprecedented. “A US institution has been driven out of a country that is a Nato ally. A European institution has been ousted from a member state of the EU.”
He also said the Hungarian government had done an injustice toward its own citizens, the hundreds of Hungarians who work and study at CEU, and thousands of Hungarian alumni and their families.
A CEU statement further said the excellence of its academic programmes has been certified by US education authorities and the Hungarian Accreditation Committee.
CEU called the “arbitrary eviction of a reputable university” a “flagrant violation of academic freedom” and “a dark day for Europe and a dark day for Hungary”.
Speaking to the press, Ignatieff said the university had fulfilled all its legal obligations according to the State of New York but the government had refused to accept this stance. He said CEU had sought to fulfil its obligations under the amended higher education act but for the sake of the students it could not wait any longer. The rector said he believed the government did not want to resolve CEU’s situation.
Hungary’s amended higher education act requires foreign colleges and universities in the country to operate on the basis of an interstate agreement and to run a campus in the country in which they are based.
According to The Budapest Times, Hungary’s government spokesman István Hollik called the CEU’s announcement “a political bluff” since the George Soros-founded university will keep several of its courses running in Budapest. “This makes it clear to everybody that the whole affair is nothing else but the usual political bluff by Soros which the government does not wish to deal with,” Hollik said in a video message posted on the government’s portal kormany.hu.