The Hungarian government has been working on its relationships with the East and thus has been conducting negotiations, discussions, and financial agreements with China. Recently, the Hungarian government seems to have invited one of the best universities in the world, the renowned Fudan University, to build a new campus in Budapest.
There are many opposers to this idea, and they have raised several issues that can have a negative effect on both the rights of the future students of the university and the overall Hungarian scene of higher education. According to Qubit, the roots of the agreement lie with the Central Bank of Hungary. The president of the Central Bank of Hungary has negotiated possible cooperation between the Fudan University and Hungary as early as 2017, during the Chinese-Hungarian financial forum in Shanghai. The negotiations moved to a new chapter when Viktor Orbán welcomed the delegation of the Fudan University in Budapest in 2019. A few months later, the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, which is in charge of Hungarian higher education,
signed an agreement in Shanghai with Xu Ningsheng, the President of Fudan University, about the establishment of a university campus in Budapest.
The next step would be to establish more education programmes between Hungarian universities and China. In addition to the one between the Hungarian Corvinus University and China, which would provide a double degree valid in both countries. Such programmes would include cooperation with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, with Eötvös Loránd University in the fields of Chinese Philosophy and Language, and with Semmelweis University in Medical Studies.
Hungarian universities in general are quite high on international lists. Four Hungarian universities made it into the world’s 1,000 best higher education institutions. This is not everything, however, as the renowned Hungarian Semmelweis University is about to compile the largest medical twin-database.
The fact that the Hungarian government gifted a 520 thousand m2 real estate near Ferencváros, Budapest, worth HUF 821 million (€2.28 million) has sparked quite a controversy among the opposers of the idea.
Some people also highlighted that the 2024 delivery of the new campus might be questionable, as neither party in the agreement has a clear strategy. One of Qubit’s sources also highlighted that the Fudan campus in Budapest would counteract the aim of Orbán to get Corvinus University in the top 200 universities in the world.
The main concern of the opposers is the effect this campus would have on the existing Hungarian higher education scene, which seems to be in ruins. Qubit asked
several experts on the matter, and they fear that the promise of a double degree would siphon students away from the most competitive Hungarian universities
as the profile of Fudan University is very similar. As Hungarian universities are quite under-supported, the huge budget Fudan University has can also alter the competition between the Hungarian Universities, as the Chinese institution could pay for more prestigious foreign and domestic professors. One other issue would be that in Hungary, only 20,000 students go to Master’s programmes, and Fudan plans on educating around 5,000 students. Even if only 25% of those would be Hungarian,
that pull would still be felt by Hungarian higher education institutions and, in turn, decrease their finances due to the lower number of students.
There are yet other opposers who think that the Fudan University might place communist and socialist views above the education of knowledge and that the Chinese institution might spy on its students and professors. However, Gergely Salát, the head of the Department of Chinese Studies at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, refuted this claim.
The question remains, however, why Budapest? Many people say that the main reason for choosing Hungary’s capital had more than one facets. Firstly, this would be an easy step towards Europe and would benefit Fudan to fossilise itself in the top universities in the world, but there is also the fact that Hungary already has a population of about 12,000 Chinese immigrants.
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