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Hungary Keeps Central European University on Ice

School says it has satisfied demands of a new law, but the government keeps toying with an institution it regards as a bastion of liberalism.

13 March 2018

Budapest’s Central European University (CEU) recently earned reaccreditation from Hungarian regulators, but its troubles with the government may not yet be over.


The government said last week it was still not ready to sign an agreement to settle its dispute with the highly regarded, private postgraduate institution stemming from an education law many believed was a targeted attack on the liberal CEU by the nationalist, ruling Fidesz party.


CEU concluded a cooperation agreement with New York-based Bard College last fall, and started teaching a joint course on Bard’s campus. That move was made in order to comply with the law’s requirement that only foreign universities with campuses in their countries of origin are permitted to operate in Hungary, the Hungarian news outlet Nepszava reports, according to The Budapest Beacon.


Entrance to the Central European University in Budapest. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, stock of CEU.


A deal between the state of New York and the Hungarian government to approve the cooperation agreement has reportedly already been reached, but Hungary thus far has refused to sign it, the BBC says.


Speaking at the Hungarian embassy in London last week, Zoltan Kovacs, a spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said CEU still does not “come up to the standards, according to our interpretation of what is required by all universities operating in Hungary.”


A CEU spokeswoman said the university is already in “full compliance” with the standards.


Nepszava surmises that the government is not keen on signing the agreement until after parliamentary elections on 8 April.


In the run-up to the elections, Fidesz relaunched its scapegoat attacks on CEU’s founder, Hungarian-American financier George Soros, accusing him, among other things, of trying to flood Europe with immigrants.



  • In January, the Hungarian government proposed the so-called Stop Soros Bill, which would ban organizations supporting immigration to Europe, and tax those organizations’ foreign financing, according to The New York Times.


  • Last year, a Russian university of similar liberal orientation as CEU, the European University at Saint Petersburg, lost its educational license. The university says the relatively minor issues cited against it were soon resolved, but its doors remain shut.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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