Budapest, April 3 (MTI) – Budapest’s Central European University (CEU) has called on Hungarian lawmakers not to pass a recent amendment proposal to the higher education law that would tighten rules governing foreign higher education institutions operating in Hungary.
In a memorandum sent to MPs on Monday, CEU said the bill, if passed into law, would make it impossible for the university to continue its operations in Hungary.
CEU said the bill would place disproportionate restrictions on the freedom of academic life, freedom to teach and the right to education by stipulating that foreign higher education institutions must also operate in the country in which their headquarters are located. CEU said this stipulation was in breach of the Hungarian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination, adding that the bill before parliament was directed at specific institutions.
The memorandum also said the bill was not in compliance with the Legislation Act, either, arguing that the government had not carried out an impact assessment prior to submitting the bill, nor had there been any social dialogue about it.
CEU said in the memorandum that it had paid more than 5.9 billion forints (EUR 19m) in taxes in Hungary in 2015 while having spent 3.5 billion forints. If the bill is passed, the university could be forced to close down, which would put 823 jobs at risk, CEU said. Further, the state would lose out on nearly 6 billion forints in tax revenue, and CEU would end up spending some 3 billion forints in another country, they added. In addition, hundreds of Hungarian students would leave the country.
The university also made it clear that its students are not automatically awarded two degrees while putting in work for only one. Students who attend programmes offered by CEU are only awarded US degrees, while students who take part in the programmes of the Kozep-europai Egyetem (KEE) are only eligible to earn Hungarian degrees, the memorandum explains.
Last week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungarian universities had a good reason to complain about CEU, arguing that the university had an unfair advantage due to an unclear legal situation. A Hungarian university can issue only one degree, a Hungarian one, yet “there is a university that operates in Hungary that issues two degrees, a Hungarian and also an American one”. This is unfair to Hungarian universities because there is competition between all universities and “it is unconceivable why we should keep our own Hungarian universities at a disadvantage” and offer unjust benefits to foreigners, Orbán added.