Budapest (MTI) – Just as foreign universities should not cheat their students or abuse their position, they must comply with Hungarian laws, the government office chief said on Thursday.

Central European University (CEU) president Michael Ignatieff has said the higher education bill seeking to clarify and tighten rules governing foreign higher education institutions operating in Hungary is discriminative and specifically an attack against the CEU. State secretary for education László Palkovics said today the criteria set out in the bill are easily complied with.

A recent review by the Education Office which has revealed problems in 27 of the 28 foreign universities operating in Hungary was lawful and thorough, Lazar told a weekly press briefing. The review uncovered many problems with operational licences and course accreditations as well as with their cooperation with the state, he said, adding this was “pitiful”.

Based on the review’s findings, the human resources ministry decided to submit an amendment to the higher education law with the aim of increasing transparency, Lazar said. Accordingly, foreign universities in Hungary would operate under an international agreement concluded between the university’s home country and the Hungarian state, he added.

“I don’t see which of these requirements can be regarded as being politically sensitive or as compromising anybody’s interests,” he said.

All foreign universities can rest assured the government will fairly examine any petition for cooperation and will assess their courses fairly, he added.

In the interest of students, the cabinet wants to ensure that all institutions act in line with the rules, he said.

Lazar said the next year would provide enough time for the foreign universities in question to sign international agreements that would serve as the precondition of their operation.

Everything beyond this is “an attempt to generate political hysteria”, he added.

Lazar singled out the American McDaniel College, which defines itself as a liberal institution, as being the only foreign university fully cleared out of all the 28 foreign universities reviewed.

“If the Hungarian government had any problem with any institution on political grounds, it would not allow a totemic liberal university to carry on,” he said.

Lazar denied the proposed law would affect Hungarian-US state relations.

Fulfilling the new requirements would not pose a “real problem” for the CEU, he said, adding that if the CEU fails to meet those requirements this would suggest it was “not up to spec”.

Palkovics today insisted that the bill did not pose a risk to CEU, adding that no other foreign university had complained about it.

Source: MTI

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