Central European University faces further year of ‘legal limbo’

Hungarian government extends deadline for compliance with education act after Budapest-based institution meets criteria

October 17, 2017
Hungarian parliament
Source: iStock

The threatened Central European University may face a further year of uncertainty over its future in Hungary, after the government extended the compliance deadline for its higher education act to 2019.

Earlier this month the Budapest-based institution announced that it had agreed with Bard College to “provide educational activities in New York” – a move that it hoped would “provide the basis for a speedy conclusion” to its long-running battle with authorities to stay in Hungary.

In April, the Hungarian government passed a law that imposed a range of restrictions on overseas universities in the country, including the need to maintain a campus in their home country.

But the university may now have to wait until January 2019 to find out whether its long-term future in the country has been secured, after the Hungarian parliament approved on 17 October a plan to extend the compliance deadline for the higher education act by a year.

During a press conference following the parliament approval, CEU’s president and rector Michael Ignatieff said the deadline extension creates an “unnecessary delay” that subjects the university, which has spent “six months in uncertainty”, to a further year of “legal limbo”.

“A solution is on the table. And every time we get within reach of a solution the goal posts get moved, the criteria get changed,” he said.

“The longer this goes on, the more the university suffers. It’s as if we’re being slowly strangled,” he added.

Professor Ignatieff called on the Hungarian government “to sign the New York agreement now”.

Liviu Matei, CEU’s provost and pro-rector, said that the government initially made no move to change the original deadline for compliance of January 2018, despite CEU and other organisations’ protests that the timeframe would be “very difficult to meet”.

“Now, however, that we do comply it is very interesting that the government decided to extend the deadline,” he said.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com 

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