Based on the interview conducted with László Palkovics, head of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, further details have been revealed about the University of Fudan and the Student City built around it.
The Hungarian news portal Index asked László Palkovics, head of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, about the project of the Fudan University, one of the world’s best, to build a campus in Budapest by 2024.
According to the government commissioner, the Fudan project will not deprive any territory of a Student City of Budapest, as stated by the mayor of Budapest. As it was decided in 2017, the university student campus would be built in the southern Pest area, near Corvinus, ELTE TTK and BME.
According to the plans, the southern part of the land strip will belong to the dormitories; the market hall will be placed in the middle part, while the northern part of the area is planned to be covered with research institutes.
László Palkovics also added that the 100-hectare public park designed for Hungarian students will be built on the other side, in Csepel.
The government commissioner also revealed that the Fudan project started on a Hungarian initiative. Other foreign universities have been contacted based on the higher education strategy in 2014, as well. Within the framework of which, besides providing Hungarian university students with the opportunity to study abroad and return with international knowledge, another important strategy was to attract as many international students as possible to Hungary. In 2014, about 5% of students, 20,000 – 22,000 were foreigners, today that number is around 37,000. The third goal was to attract foreign institutes to Hungary, so for example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading technical universities, to Debrecen.
The interview also revealed that part of the investment area is privately owned, but the territory is also owned by the capital, the state, and the district. If the 9th district of Budapest decides not to sell the plot, new plans will need to be carried out. However, according to László Palkovics,
it is also an advantage for the district that a new university would be built with dormitories in one of the most destroyed rust areas of Budapest.
Therefore, this issue still needs to be discussed between the parties, although there is an agreement between the two governments, the two ministries of education and the university as well, so there is no plan B so far.
According to some news, the construction of the Fudan campus in Budapest is a roughly EUR 1.4 billion investment that has not been confirmed by the government commissioner, who hopes that the project can be implemented at lower costs.
In connection with China’s billion-dollar loan agreements with Eastern European states, the government commissioner stated that “a responsible government does not conclude such a contract, and Hungary has a responsible government”. So to say Hungary is not threatened by the “debt-trap diplomacy”; according to László Palkovics, only contracts that do not burden the Hungarian community will be concluded.
The interview also revealed that China had applied and offered to build the university with their own company and own workers; however, no final decision has been made whether the university will be built by Hungarian or Chinese workers.
A business plan has already been developed for the university’s operation; however, the details and the repayment of the loan have not been decided yet. Fudan plans to operate under the same conditions as any English or American university. This does not preclude the Hungarian or Chinese state or companies from establishing scholarships for students.
According to Index, domestic researchers of China believe that some of Fudan’s teachers and students will join the Chinese Communist Party; however, this has been refuted by László Palkovics, saying that “Fudan did not reach the 34th place in the world rankings because ideological training is taking place there”.
Presumably, the Fudan university will be a great competitor of the top-ranked Hungarian universities as Corvinus or ELTE. According to the László Palkovics, this is not a disadvantage for Hungarian higher education.
The Fudan University will enable students to choose among a broader range of quality universities in Hungary.