Government spokesman on international affairs Zoltán Kovács has harshly criticized the Central European University (CEU) recently for several things, including such statements as the Soros-founded school has a competitive edge over other higher education institutions as it issues American as well as Hungarian degrees. The politician has already been confronted with the fact that he also obtained CEU’s American PhD. However, as news site Alfahír reported on Thursday, it was Mr Kovács’ second PhD in the same discipline (history) and, interestingly enough, he submitted essentially the same dissertation at both universities.
Mr Kovács, who was still active in the academic area at the time, got into contact with Central European University one year after it was founded. In parallel with his studies in Debrecen, he participated in CEU’s MA course in 1992-93. Having completed it, he studied another year at The Queen’s College of Oxford with a Soros scholarship, then he had a research scholarship at the CEU from 1996 to 1999. This period included four months of research at London’s University College and three months at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center.
The theme of his doctorate studies was the political image of the Habsburg monarchy in mid-18th-century England. That was also the topic of his dissertation titled „Anglo-Austrian diplomatic relations and the political image of the Habsburg Monarchy in mid-eighteenth-century England” which he submitted at the University of Debrecen in 2001.
In comparison, the title of his dissertation for the CEU is the second half of his Debrecen paper: „The political image of the Habsburg Monarchy in mid-eighteenth-century England.” But that’s just the smallest problem, of course. The biggest trouble is that the contents of the two dissertations are essentially identical.
Although Mr Kovács did not submit the exact same text to both institutions but the contents are essentially the same, even in a sentence-by-sentence comparison in many places. The volumes of the two papers are also eerily similar: the one submitted in Debrecen has 211 pages while the CEU dissertation has 204 pages. The totally identical tables of content are already an indication that there cannot be significant differences between the two documents.
When the spokesman was asked at an April press conference if he got an American degree from the CEU, he said he didn’t know but he was “going to look into it”. We still don’t know if he could find his degree at home but one thing is certain: CEU’s doctorate school of history was not accredited in the Hungarian higher education system until 2005, i.e., three years after Mr Kovács had already graduated.
The only reason for Orbán’s spokesman to obtain a PhD from George Soros’ university may have been to have a title that is accepted in the United States, since he already obtained the Hungarian PhD at the University of Debrecen half a year before.
The Hungarian news site notes that obtaining a degree in such a way may not perhaps be a horrible thing but the politician has specifically criticized the institution for its competitive edge due to being the only Hungarian institution to issue American degrees. Which is the exact same “competitive edge” he used fifteen years ago.