As we reported yesterday, the European Commission wrote a letter to the Hungarian government withdrawing the Erasmus support from Hungarian foundation universities for the time being. Later the government said Erasmus plus programmes could continue without change in Hungary this year. Furthermore, they added they would start negotiations as they believe the European Commission’s decision to exclude the 21 Hungarian universities run by public interest asset management foundations was unfair and discriminative. But how does this entire issue affect university students and teachers?
According to eduline.hu, a Hungarian news outlet focusing on education issues, thousands of university students may lose the opportunity to study abroad. The EU excluded the Hungarian foundation universities from the Erasmus and Horizon programmes. Based on news reports, the European Commission does not like the fact that there are acting ministers, mayors, MPs and other, mostly government-close politicians in the foundations running 21 Hungarian institutions of higher education.
However, the decision affects thousands of students and teachers. In 2019, the last full academic year prior to the pandemic, more than 20 thousand university and secondary school students and teachers joined the exchange programmes. Based on the data of the Tempus Public Foundation, in 2019, 8,033 university teachers and students went abroad from 50 institutions. Most chose Germany, Spain, and Italy. The highest number of students were from the ELTE University Budapest, which is still a state-run university, so the EC’s decision does not affect it. However, the universities in second and third place (Corvinus in Budapest and Szeged) has been run by foundations for a while. Therefore, we can fairly say that thousands of Hungarian students may suffer from the EU’s decision.
According to eduline, Corvinus University started negotiations regarding the future of the Erasmus and Horizon programmes directly with the professional organisations. They highlighted in a statement that this academic year’s programmes (2022-2023 2nd semester) would start unchanged.
As Qubit reports, the government had been aware of the decision of the European Commission for a while but did not make it public. As a result, the news broke yesterday after a Népszava article. They also highlighted that in the last 25 years, 87 thousand Hungarian university students had the opportunity to study abroad thanks to the Erasmus programme.
Based on the information of a former top official of the Tempus Public Foundation, Qubit writes that the Erasmus and Horizon funds of the 2023-2024 academic year are at stake. The government must resolve the conflict of interests regarding the foundation universities by 15 February, the deadline for the new Erasmus applications. University teachers talking to Qubit highlighted that it would be a “nuclear disaster in Hungarian higher education” if the government did not reach an agreement. Everybody will suffer because not only teachers and students but several other people took part in Erasmus’ so-called lifelong learning programmes.
Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, the chairman of the foundation running the MOME (the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest) wrote in an official email intended for the students that there was a misunderstanding. They are in a live connection with the ministry, and in just days they will know more about the issue, he added.
Telex.hu wrote that Hungary’s probably most popular university among foreign students, the Semmelweis University Budapest, signed its Erasmus+ agreements until July 2024. Therefore, they will be able to help more than 200 students and lecturers to gain international experience and know-how with the help of the Erasmus programme.
Marcell Budai, the spokesperson of Hungary’s students’ union (HÖOK), called the EC’s decision highly problematic and underlined that the money withdrawal will cause problems from February 2024 as the agreements have to be renewed in March.
However, based on their statement, the government seems committed to settling the issue by early spring. A lot depends on the sentiment of the qualified majority of the EU ministers of the member states as they are the ones who can modify the current decision of the European Commission.
Source: telex.hu, eduline.hu, Qubit