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HFHR in defence of Central European University in Budapest

The HFHR has called Hungarian Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog to abolish the adoption of controversial laws on higher education, which will result in the closure of the Central European University in Budapest (CEU), a world’s top university providing education in the areas of law, human rights and social sciences. Unfortunately, the Hungarian Parliament enacted the amendment on 4 April.

“As concerned civil society representatives, we are writing to express solidarity with the Central European University and express concern at proposed legislative changes to CEU’s status in Hungary. These regulations endanger academic freedom, which is necessary for the further operations of the Central European University in Budapest”, reads the HFHR letter.

Amendment to Higher Education Act

On 4 April, Hungarian National Assembly passed an amendment to the Higher Education Act, submitted to the parliament only a week before the vote. The newly adopted law may substantially restrict or even entirely prevent further operations of the CEU. The new provisions set out the rule that universities issuing foreign degrees may operate in Hungary only if they have signed an interstate agreement for the provision of support for their work and provided that the institution engages in educational activities and has a campus also in the country of its origin. However, since the Central European University is a US higher education institution but operates exclusively in Hungary, the new law, if enforced, would effectively prevent its functioning.

“CEU is a valued member of the international academic community and its presence in Hungary has added to the reputation of Hungarian academic life on the international stage. The government’s proposed legislation to alter its statute of operations in Hungary … would also have a negative impact on the world’s human rights movement, where many of the human rights defenders are graduates of the University”, emphasises the HFHR’s letter to Zoltan Balog.

International support for CEU

The proposed amendments to the Higher Education Law have been meeting with strong opposition from the academic community, international institutions and authorities of foreign states and non-governmental organisations from Europe and the US. Furthermore, on Sunday 2 April ten thousand people took the streets in Budapest to protest against restrictions on academic freedom in Hungary.

“The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights respectfully urge the government to withdraw the proposed legislation and enter consultation with CEU, bearing in mind the damage such legislation might do to Hungary’s well-founded international academic reputation, to its relationships with European partners and with the United States”, the letter reads.

The full text of the document is available here.

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