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Orbán: Future of ‘Soros university’ depends on intergovernmental talks – Interview – UPDATE

Orbán: Future of ‘Soros university’ depends on intergovernmental talks – Interview – UPDATE

Budapest, March 31 (MTI) – The future of the “Soros university” depends on US-Hungarian intergovernmental talks, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday in an interview to public radio.

A recent investigation by the Education Office revealed that the operation of several foreign universities, including Hungarian-born US financier “George Soros’s university”, fell foul of regulations, Orbán said, referring to the Central European University. “Even if someone is a billionaire, they cannot be above the law in Hungary … cheating is cheating, no matter who does it,” Orbán added.

He said the CEU enjoyed an unfair advantage over Hungarian universities because it can award both a Hungarian degree and an American one despite admitting that it does not operate abroad, which is against Hungarian regulations.

In response to the question about whether the CEU would be able to operate in Hungary in the future, Orbán said this would depend on US-Hungarian talks and an agreement. No discussions have taken place with the US government on the issue, he added.

In line with the bill, an intergovernmental agreement would be necessary for any foreign university to operate in Hungary, he said.

Asked whether talks would also be held with the CEU, he said all the CEU must do is comply with the law. “We won’t have talks with them because they are not the US government, even if that’s what they might want to be,” he added.

Hungarian universities have a good reason to complain because the CEU has an unfair advantage due to the unclear legal situation, Orban said. A Hungarian university can issue only one degree, a Hungarian one, yet “there is a university that operates in Hungary that issues two degrees, a Hungarian and also an American one”. This is unfair to Hungarian universities because there is competition between all universities and “it is unconceivable why we should keep our own Hungarian universities at a disadvantage” and offer unjust benefits to foreigners, Orban added.

The CEU reacted in a statement and rejected the suggestion that it was cheating. The university said that “contrary to the prime minister’s remarks”, there is no law currently in effect in Hungary demanding that universities must also operate in their countries of origin in order to award degrees in Hungary. The university said it has accreditation to award both Hungarian and American degrees.

CEU said it has operated in the Hungarian higher education sector, complying with all of its rules, for 25 years, adding that any statement that said otherwise was untrue.

UPDATE

The CEU reacted in a statement and rejected the suggestion that it was cheating. The university said that “contrary to the prime minister’s remarks”, there is no law currently in effect in Hungary demanding that universities must also operate in their countries of origin in order to award degrees in Hungary. The university said it has accreditation to award both Hungarian and American degrees.

CEU said it has operated in the Hungarian higher education sector, complying with all of its rules, for 25 years, adding that any statement that said otherwise was untrue.

The statement said that contrary to Orbán’s remarks, the university is officially accredited and known worldwide as the Central European University (CEU).

Citing a position paper issued by the Human Resources Ministry’s Education Office (OH) on Wednesday, CEU said late on Friday that the university fully complies with the Hungarian Higher Education Act of 2011, which also regulates the operation of foreign universities in Hungary.

CEU also cited an open letter signed by over 150 notable European and American scientists, 14 Nobel laureates among them. “CEU’s integration in and cooperation with other academic institutions in the region is fundamental to the success of Hungary. . We therefore ask, respectfully but in the strongest possible terms, that [Hungary’s] government withdraw this legislation”, the letter said.

In a statement issued late on Friday, the office denied having issued such a position paper.

In the meantime, CEU amended its original statement by clarifying that OH’s position paper was originally issued in connection with an earlier accreditation process of 17 courses. “The review of the operating licence is not yet completed, but CEU expects to receive positive reports on that count as well,” it said.

Photo: MTI

Source: MTI

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