Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Behind Lex CEU —how Orban has been suffocating the Hungarian higher education system

By Gérard Roland

The passing of Lex CEU by the Hungarian Parliament to outlaw Central European University in Budapest has stirred widespread protests both in Hungary and outside Hungary. This legitimate protest should not hide the fact that Viktor Mihály Orban’s government has been passing laws to muzzle the whole system of higher education in Hungary.

After the 2010 electoral victory of Fidesz, the Law on Higher Education was amended. Amendment 2001/CCIV in particular had the purpose of severely undermining the independence of Hungarian universities and bring them under the control of Prime MInister Orban.

Before 2011, rectors of Hungarian universities were elected by the University Senate and confirmed by the minister who had a veto right, but, as a rule, did not use it. Since 2011, the Hungarian government can not only veto a candidate rector proposed by a university, but also directly choose another rector without the Senate’s consent. The rector appointed by the government does not even have to be among the candidates who initially applied for the position.

Moreover, since the change of the law, each university is now monitored by a chancellor, also selected by the government.

These are changes planned to crush the academic independence and freedom of Hungarian universities. Orban means business. He already selected the new rector of Corvinus University, Professor Lanczi, a well known Orban follower.

The strangling of higher education in Hungary cannot leave European governments and E.U. institutions indifferent. Orban is already revising high school textbooks to indoctrinate children to his version of history where he occupies the role of hero of the country. Solidarity with CEU and protests against Lex CEU should be combined with active opposition against Orban’s strangling of higher education.