Central European University fights for survival in Hungary


David Matthews in Time Higher Education:

Hungary's top-ranked university is fighting for its existence after the country’s increasingly authoritarian government tabled legislative changes that would make it impossible for the institution to remain in Budapest.

The Central European University, a graduate institution set up after the fall of communism to defend democracy in Eastern Europe, could be the first international institution to fall victim to ascendant illiberal governments in Europe and the US, according to observers.

It is believed that the government of prime minister Viktor Orbán has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump as US president to move against pro-democracy organisations, particularly those funded by the multibillionaire George Soros, such as the CEU.

Legislative amendments tabled on 28 March would stop the institution from issuing US-accredited degrees; force the CEU to open a campus in New York; change its name; and end an agreement whereby non-EU staff do not need a work permit, the university has said, making it “impossible for the university to continue its operations as an institution of higher education in Budapest, the CEU’s home for 25 years”.

Speaking at a press conference in Budapest on 29 March, CEU president Michael Ignatieff called for the amendments to be withdrawn. “We plan to remain here,” he said. But he added that, by tabling them, the Hungarian government had eroded trust so completely that a new international agreement was now needed to make the CEU’s status in the country secure.

More here. If you feel so inclined to sign it, here is a petition to the Hungarian National Assembly, calling for a rejection of the proposed law.