April 18, 2017

#IStandWithCEU: Hungary's new education law

Is academic freedom under threat?

Hungary’s president has signed into a law an education bill that opponents say unfairly targets a prestigious international graduate school, and will likely force it to close.

The school in question, Central European University (CEU), was founded in 1991 in the capital Budapest following the collapse of communism by Hungarian-American George Soros. Since its founding, the school has been operating free of Hungarian oversight, something proponents of the bill wanted to see changed. The law sets tougher conditions on foreign-based universities that operate in the country.

The law has sparked fierce opposition in the streets of Budapest with large scale protests nearly every other day. Demonstrators say it is “a threat to academic freedom”, adding that at the time of the university’s founding, it was one of the pre-eminent centers of free thought in Hungary. Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog says the charge that it is a threat is a “hallucination”.

It appears the government is starting to listen to the hundreds of international academics, including 17 Nobel Laureates who have voiced their support for CEU. Education Secretary Laszlo Palkovics signaled the school could continue to function under certain conditions. But it is unclear if CEU is open to compromise. The protests around CEU have ignited a discussion on academic freedoms in Hungary. Analysts say the new law is a veiled attempt at shutting down liberal centres of education and foreign investment in the country.

In this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Lili Bayer @liliebayer

Peter Márton 
PhD Candidate, Central European University

Andras Stumpf 
Senior Fellow, Heti Valasz

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.