Lawmakers on Tuesday amended Hungary’s higher education law to extend the deadline for foreign universities and colleges operating in the country to meet the law’s criteria to January 1, 2019.
Hungary tightened rules governing the operations of foreign universities in the country in the spring, requiring foreign colleges and universities in Hungary to operate on the basis of an interstate agreement and to run a campus in the country in which they are based.
Tuesday’s amendment, submitted by Justice Minister László Trócsányi, was approved with 118 votes in favour, 31 against and 1 abstention.
The bill’s reasoning stated that so far
Hungary has only signed an interstate agreement with the State of Maryland to ensure the continued operations of McDaniel College in Budapest.
Talks between the government and other higher education institutions are still ongoing.
The new deadline was proposed — in part based on recommendations made by the Venice Commission — in order to make it easier for foreign universities to comply with the law, the bill states.
Trócsányi said last week that the government stands by its position that Hungarian laws apply to everyone.
Budapest’s Central European University (CEU), founded by US financier George Soros, has said that the education law passed in the spring would make its continued operations in Budapest impossible.
Talks are ongoing between the government and the State of New York to secure the future of the CEU in Hungary.
At a press conference on Tuesday, CEU president Michael Ignatieff urged the government to sign an agreement with the State of New York, which he said had already been reached.
Ignatieff said that by having signed an agreement with Bard College to provide educational activities in New York, CEU now fully complied with Hungary’s higher education law.
He said the government was deliberately keeping the university in a state of uncertainty, arguing that this benefitted the government.
Ignatieff said the education commissioner of the State of New York had written a letter to the Hungarian prime minister saying that the agreement signed between the CEU and Bard College was in line with the founding documents of both institutions.
He said the fact that Hungary had already signed an agreement with the State of Maryland but not with the State of New York raised suspicions of discrimination on the part of the government, arguing that the two documents in question were nearly identical.