Hopes rise for solution to Central European University stand-off

Budapest institution says it will take in students for 2017-18, but its future is still not secure

May 30, 2017
People participate in a demonstration to show support and solidarity with the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest
Source: Alamy

The closure-threatened Central European University has announced that it will continue to enrol students in Budapest for the next academic year and has revealed that talks are under way between the Hungarian government and the US state of New York that the institution hopes will result in an agreement to resolve its future.

In a press conference, Michael Ignatieff, president of the CEU, said that the government of Hungary had conducted a phone call with the chief of staff of the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and had agreed to a face-to-face meeting in the future.

The Hungarian government has not released a statement in response, and it did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Times Higher Education.

Professor Ignatieff said that the talks were “a good sign”, and he added that the university was in a “stronger position” now than when the crisis erupted in March, when the Hungarian government first proposed legislation that the CEU says would force it out of the country.

He also said that the university had decided to continue all of its activities in Budapest in 2017-18. “We're staying here, and it’s business as usual,” he said. The university had a “full class” for the coming academic year, he said.

But he warned that the legislation, which was passed by the Hungarian parliament in April, would stop the university recruiting new students in 2018-19. “So we are still threatened,” he said.

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The CEU is accredited by New York state and, since the Hungarian government proposed the controversial legislation, the university has sought a new international agreement to secure its continued operation in Budapest. In 2004, New York and the Hungarian government signed a joint agreement to support the CEU in getting Hungarian accreditation for degrees.

Last week, Mr Cuomo released a statement saying that he was ready to enter into discussions with Hungary. “An agreement to keep the CEU in Budapest as a free institution is in everyone’s best interests,” he said.

Polls released earlier this month show that the government appears to have lost support in the wake of its move against the CEU. The Hungarian government has said that its legislation came about in response to a review of foreign institutions operating in the country.

But Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, has also said that he had been irked by the CEU’s positive attitude towards migrants, with the government having sought to keep refugees out of the country.


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