Provisions in Hungary’s law on higher education that affect how foreign universities operate in the country breach EU law, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday.
Hungary’s parliament amended the country’s law on higher education in 2017, obliging foreign universities that issue their own degrees in Hungary to carry out educational activities in their home countries, while also making their operations dependent on a bilateral agreement between the Hungarian government and the country in which the universities are based.
Later that year, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary, saying the new regulations violated EU laws.
In its ruling, the court said the regulations unnecessarily curbed the institutes’ freedom of establishment and the free movement of services.
In its ruling, the court said the regulations unnecessarily curbed the institutions’ freedom of establishment and the free movement of services.
Justice Minister Judit Varga said in reaction to the ruling that
“applying double standards is unacceptable”, arguing that each university must observe effective regulations. Referring to the Central European University (CEU) founded by financier George Soros, which moved the bulk of its teaching to Vienna after the law was enacted, she said: “It is not possible to pass legislation which would benefit the Soros university more than Hungarian universities.”
Varga added, however, that the Hungarian government would, as always, abide by the court’s ruling.
The minister also said that “a dozen” foreign universities in Hungary were governed by the contested legislation, adding that “most of them had no problem” meeting its stipulations.