An open letter was posted on Facebook in a group called 21 Professors from Debrecen, in which 21 professors from the University of Debrecen – all of whom are members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences – stand against the sudden change in the university’s model.
As we previously wrote, several universities in Hungary adopted a foundation model for their functioning, the latest institution among them is that of Debrecen. The aforementioned professors state that the press release of the university talking about “expansive and intensive” talks on the matter before voting about it in a closed session on January 21 (where the decision was accepted unanimously, with 3 abstentions) is simply not true.
“The community of the university did not have the chance to get to know in advance the developmental plans of the institution and the strategy on the change of the model. Contrary to the statement, there have been no expansive and intensive talks on the plans, objectives, reasons, advantages, disadvantages, and consequences on the matter of the most important change in the university’s history,”
Then they go on emphasising that “none of the senate members received any documented information and thus did not share it with their voters, though it is the basis of democracy in the university and elsewhere as well”.
Speaking of democracy, one of the biggest issues is not the lack of information provided to voters to elect people they consider the most competent for the position to run the institutiton, but the fact that they would loose this power as the advisory board would be filled with lifelong appointees, such as in the case of other foundation run universities.
They bring up the examples of the University of Pécs and that of the University of Szeged, where the same model change is happening right in front of the eyes of the public.
“The shift to a foundation model run by the state in the case of our university does not seem logical from several points of views. Changing some laws and increasing the budget that was promised to the institution could have helped the previous model a lot. Still, the shift could even be acceptable for the majority of the university’s community, however, if the process is completed secretly, without a discussion, excluding the public, in the course of a couple of days, strong suspicion arises that the main objective of the change is not the improvement of the educational and scientific standards.” They also write that they miss “critical and constructive discussions expected from intellectuals,” quotes telex.hu.
Despite László Palkovics, Minister of Innovation and Technology, talking about 6 universities some months ago saying that there would be no structural changes, in January, the process has been started in the case of 4 institutions – including the University of Debrecen. If plans proceed according to the Ministry of Innovation, the shift will be finalised by February.
The rectors of the universities of Szeged, Pécs, and Debrecen were called in to the ministry in the first days of January to be informed by Palkovics about the scenario set up by the ministry: based on their own requests, they will no longer function under a state-run model.
These institutions only have some days to voluntarily ask for the model change based on the ministry’s scenario. Accepting the foundation model in these universities, together with the Semmelweis University, will define the next decades of Hungarian higher education.
Though strong resistance is believed to be successful according to some in Szeged and Pécs, it seems like radical steps experienced in the case of SZFE (University of Theatre and Film Arts) prevent the support of the university community right now. Moreover, the Semmelweis University is definitely in favour of the change, the rector’s standpoint in Szeged seems obvious, and the rector’s preference in Debrecen, who gave Putin an honorary doctorate and has a separate office maintained for Palkovics, also seems rather evident.
In Pécs, on the other hand, there was a panel discussion organised with almost 1,000 participants where even the rector showed up. Furthermore, the student council of the university has issued a statement on their conditions to accept the change in the structure of their institution.