Hungarian HE law change criticised by German ministry

Germany’s Federal Foreign Office has sharply criticised Hungary’s higher education law amendment, maintaining that it restricts academic freedom.

On 4 April, the Hungarian parliament approved changes to regulations for foreign universities which, according to the government, allow a reassessment of the operating licences for various foreign institutions in which “irregularities and shortcomings” were detected. The new, stricter regulations only apply to non-European Union institutions.

“We fail to understand today’s hasty approval of the amendment to the higher education law,” commented Minister of State Michael Roth of the Federal Foreign Office on Tuesday. The new regulations pose an immediate threat to the Central European University, whose international students include 44 from Germany. Numerous German professors teach at the Central European University, or CEU, as well.

“The EU’s comprehensive support of the CEU and the large number of successful graduates speak for it being a very important pillar of Budapest’s academic landscape that contributes to the education of highly qualified, internationally oriented young people from various countries,” said Roth.

“It is all the more incomprehensible to us that the activities of the CEU, and hence academic freedom in Hungary, should be restricted by the new legislation.” However, his ministry views the new law in the context of further restrictions imposed on the activities of NGOs and civil society in Hungary.

Germany’s Andrássy University Budapest is not affected by the new regulations. However, in a statement issued ahead of the voting in parliament, the university declared that it “regards Central European University as an integral part and a high-ranking institution of the Hungarian higher education system and of the Hungarian and international research community".

“Andrássy University Budapest has a well-established and successful cooperation with CEU. If CEU had to stop its operations in Hungary for any reason whatsoever, this would be a great loss for the entire Hungarian higher educational system, for Budapest as a science location, and in particular for Andrássy University.”

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