From September, dozens of Hungarian students plan to start their university studies abroad. Furthermore, the proportion of applicants for Hungarian higher education has decreased significantly this year that can generate labour shortage in specific sectors later on. But what is the reason for the mass emigration of students and which are the most popular destinations?
According to the latest data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the number of applicants for higher education in Hungary has drastically decreased this year. Numerically, it means 91,400 students in 2021, which is about 20,000 less than a year before.
Furthermore, there has not been such a low number of applicants since 2001.
The purpose of the unstoppable emigration is partly working, partly studying abroad. As the world has changed a lot in the last twenty years, younger generations have different demands than before. Those students who start their studies abroad or even graduate at a foreign university are less likely to return to Hungary. Speaking languages with a high level of expertise behind them, they work for higher wages and experience a better standard of living abroad; therefore, only a very few of them decide to return to their homeland.
According to the Hungarian news portal Pénzcentrum, the low domestic income in Hungary compared to the EU wage level continuously encourages Hungarian emigration.
In addition to large wage differences, expectations about the future, dissatisfaction with the situation in their home country and high domestic unemployment in the past are the main drivers of students’ emigration.
Surveys have shown that the process of migration is not one-way: some emigrants return home and then go abroad again. It depends whether the individuals, based on their experiences abroad, manage to claim higher wage demands at home and realise their expectations.
Several demographic studies highlight that the increasing tendency of students’ emigration is a serious threat to Hungary that can cause labour shortage in several sectors. This is the age group that will pay taxes and contributions within a few years, as well as give birth within a decade; however, those who emigrate will realise all these far from Hungary.
Half of Hungarians have an acquaintance who has left their homeland.
With the level of education, the proportion of those who know emigrants increases: among those with up to 8 grades, it is 40%, and among graduates, it is 63%. The news portal also examined the reasons behind it by asking five students from Hungary, studying abroad.
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Based on the answers, the main reason why several Hungarian students choose the Netherlands as their destination is that tuition fees are relatively low compared to other countries; meanwhile, the quality of education is exceptionally high. In addition, people are friendly, and they speak English well, making it easier to find a job. Furthermore, sustainability is also an important aspect in which the Netherlands is at the forefront.
Among the positive experiences, one of the students highlighted the good standard of living in the country. Someone with a low salary gets a discount or has completely free health insurance.
The state provides a free Dutch course for everyone and has a word at work and school, both as an employee or student. People have a much more positive worldview than in Hungary. However, she also has negative experiences. Accordingly, taxes and public utilities are high, including water charges, garbage collection charges etc. The most serious problem she has to face is that people in the Netherlands look down on those from Eastern Europe that she had not expected before she moved out. And of course, as a Hungarian, it is difficult to get used to the grey, windy and cold weather, which is typical for most of the year.
Another student chose a university in Osaka where tuition is entirely free (except for the books) as a Japanese state scholarship funds it. The student also receives a monthly living stipend.
The university studies were preceded by a year of preparation at the University of Foreign Languages in Tokyo for all state scholarship foreign students, which was also free of charge. According to Fanny, she is experiencing a culture shock right now. She has many positive and negative experiences as well, out of which the most negative is the expectation of gender differences between women and men. After college, Fanny wants to go back to Europe and study languages.
Among students applying for foreign universities, there is a common desire to try themselves abroad, travel, see the world and become independent in another country.
Three of the five girls interviewed work alongside their studies, each speaking two to three foreign languages.
They feel lucky to be able to make their dreams come true with the support of their families and are completely satisfied with their current situation; however, they do not want to give the impression that everyday life is easier abroad than in Hungary.
Some of the emigrating students plan to return to Hungary after finishing their studies, just like Zóra studying law in Maastricht. “I can’t comment on my future location because regardless of its disadvantages, Hungary will always be my country and will always be the centre of my heart.”