In Hungary, an assistant professor makes almost as much as a salesman in Aldi. Moreover, they should leave their position because at the Centre of Budapest Transport (BKK) a bus driver’s net income is 200 thousand forints a month, which they could hardly earn even after ten years of teaching, said.

Although the salary of the university professors increased by 26.8% since 2015, this only means an acceptable amount at the top of the university hierarchy. Typically, a university professor’s gross income is 554 thousand forints, while an assistant professor only gets half of it; 277 thousand forints (895 euros) – that makes up for 191 thousand forints net income. An assistant earns even less; 147 thousand forints (474 euros) net pay. This means that only those start their carrier in the Hungarian higher education

  • who cannot move abroad or find a job in the private-public sector at home
  • who go beyond their limits and try to get part-time positions besides their university job
  • who take teaching as their mission

It takes 20-25 years of uncompetitive salary before achieving the university professor title.

“Often a high school teacher, moreover, a stocker or a cashier earns more”, than an assistant teacher or an assistant.

László Zentai told this, the vice rector of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), in their university newspaper. He also mentioned last year’s promise made by the minister of raising pays, nevertheless “this has not happened yet”.

According to the most celebrated Hungarian university’s vice rector, “our Czech and Slovak colleagues get twice or three times as much in the same position”. He stated this when asked about the highest dissatisfaction caused by the low income amongst ELTE’s workers. This data is from the institution’s internal satisfaction survey, the more than a 100-page-long research report made its way to the Hungarian newspaper Index as well. The results not only show the inner mood of ELTE, but it is also instructive in case of the whole Hungarian Higher Education.

Every sixth person at ELTE (761 workers) answered the questionnaire in December of 2017. Although similar inner researches are often made for PR purposes, ELTE’s survey was made for quality development, and it cannot conceal anything.

“Right now ELTE is consuming its own assets of prestige and the colleagues’ inner motivation”- as the report goes, noting that although the workers’ sense of vocation is strong, they do not feel appreciated by the university. Of course, this is not entirely ELTE’s fault, more the fault of the classification of the salary scheme.


People at ELTE think that the most pressing problem is the low salary, the lack of accordance of pay and performance, and, lastly, that quality work is never appreciated.

While the workers are more or less satisfied with the quality of teaching and the prestige of ELTE, the opportunities and funding of research make them unsatisfied, the rankings of scholarships have not reached a 2 in a scale of 5. As the phenomenon of massification of higher education increased over the last two decades, the research opportunities decreased. Although it was frequently promised that Hungary would invest more money in research and innovation, it has not happened yet, furthermore higher education is left out of most of the positive progress. We are one of the worst in the EU.

Another trait of the whole Hungarian higher education (not only ELTE’s) is that the institutions take advantage of the people in the lower levels of hierarchy.

It is not a coincidence that assistant professors’ opinion on the questionnaire questions was the most negative. They carry the most weight of education on their shoulders, while we saw how little they earn. They should underpin their carrier, build networks home and connections abroad, which are essential for research, and also establish innovative projects, while, on the other side, what they see is that bus drivers and shop assistants earn a lot more.

According to ELTE’s survey,

the assistant professors would expect their gross income to be 467 thousand forints (1500-1600 euros).

Their answer was 1.5 on the scale of 5 to the question “Does your salary reflect your achievement?” – which is ridiculous.

For the question “why do not you change your profession?” the answers varied a lot, but the main conclusion is that workers stay because of the possibility of self-realisation, rather than any feeling of satisfaction.

While the salaries in higher education are ridiculous, the job is undoubtedly more creative than, for example, shelf-stacking. Sadly, ELTE’s employee feel it hard to enjoy these advantages. According to their answers, Hungary’s number one university’s operation is not entirely clear; there is much favouritism in the institution. Furthermore, the possibilities to improve and step forward are vague and almost impossible.

It is not clear if it is only ELTE’s fault or if it is the characteristic feature of Hungarian higher education on the whole. The examination also showed that university professors are not only worried about their salary, but they are more concerned about the decreased quality of the job that derives from the lack of motivation.

The makers of the questionnaire advised the directorate to create an action plan in order to solve the at least some basic problems. Although, the severe salary problems should be taken care of by the government. The government’s aim to get a university into the top 200 universities in the world is hard to image while the budgets are kept this low.

As we wrote before, the availability of key skills is a challenge according to 95 percent of CEOs in Hungary, consulting company PwC said on Thursday. Read more HERE.

Translated by Dóra Fehér


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