Central European University: bill highlights EU 'weakness'

19 April, 2017, 01:01 | Author: Jonathon Greene
  • Rawlings, Pollack voice support for Central European University

Hungary's president on Monday signed a law that sets new requirements for foreign universities and could force out Central European University, one of Hungary's top worldwide schools founded by US financier George Soros.

"If it wants the best of both worlds and wants to continue to issue a U.S. diploma as it has been doing-beyond the European diploma that it is entitled to award-it will need a bilateral treaty with the United States for mutual recognition", Kovacs wrote.

Orban earlier said CEU was "cheating" and enjoyed an unfair advantage over other local schools because its students can earn both USA and Hungarian diplomas.

The Hungarian-born Soros founded Central European University in 1991.

Grievances between Brussels, some European Union capitals and Budapest go beyond the higher education law to issues such as migration and energy policy, as well as moves by Orban to put independent media, NGOs and the judiciary under more state control. The law demands that foreign universities in Hungary also have a campus in their home countries.

Demonstrators in the capital on Sunday want President Janos Ader not to sign the controversial legislation backed by the governing right wing Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. That ignited large street protests and sparked calls from hundreds of leading academics and global partners for the legislation to be scrapped.

CEU is a privately funded university with more than 1,400 students from more than 100 countries, that offers degrees accredited in both the United States and Hungary. Other chants included "A free country, a free university", "Orban get out", "Viktator!" and "Europe, Europe".

Hungarian authorities insist the law is part of a larger and better regulation drive, but the move is widely seen as a government-led clamp down on civil society and opposition in general.

CEU enrolls over 1,400 students from 108 countries and offers master's and doctoral degrees in disciplines ranging from the social sciences to law, business and public policy. It is ranked among the top 200 universities in the world in eight disciplines.

Germany's deputy foreign minister, Michael Roth, said he expressed "incomprehension" about the foreign universities bill and its targeting of CEU at a meeting Tuesday with Hungary's ambassador in Berlin, Peter Imre Gyorkos.

"So that no one has the smallest doubt that foreign universities can continue to do work of high quality in Hungary, I ask the government to immediately start talks on the law's implementation with those affected", Ader said.

The bill has led to criticism from hundreds of leading academics worldwide as well as from the U.S. government and the European Union (EU).

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