The Central European University (CEU) intends to relocate from Budapest to Vienna following discord with Hungary’s right-wing government.
The university plans to relocate its US-accredited masters and doctoral courses to a satellite campus in Vienna by September 2019 after making allegations that it has seen opposition and heavy criticism from Hungary’s conservative Fidesz party, which is led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, among others.
The university, which offers both US- and Hungarian-accredited degrees, was founded in the 1990s. It has been funded in past years by Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is known for his international grant making network “Open Society Foundations”. The foundation supports democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries.
Government changes to Hungary’s Higher Education Act have reportedly made it difficult for the CEU to continue to operate legally in Hungary as a US-accredited institution. CEU’s Pro-Rector, Liviu Matei, outlined that the university has been “forced to move”, saying to doesn’t “have any other opportunity legally”. Matei said the decision has come “at a huge cost”.
President and Rector of CEU Michael Ignatieff expressed a similar sentiment, stating: “Unfortunately, we have been forced into this decision by the unwillingness of the Hungarian government to offer and accept solution.”
Thousands attended a demonstration in Budapest on Friday to show support for the university, with one marcher saying that “the behavior of the government doesn’t help young Hungarian students to stay here, it’s forcing the young generation to leave the country”.
The Hungarian government has also recently banned Gender Studies courses from universities, with Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén arguing the discipline is “an ideology, not a science”. The decision has been met with outcry from opponents, who say the move sets a worrying precedent for government limitations on academic freedom.