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University directors call on Hungary's Orbán cabinet to withdraw 'lex CEU'

Directors of London School of Economics, Hardvard University and University College London called on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government in a joint letter to reconsider and withdraw new legislation that would essentially mean the end of the operation of Central European University (CEU) in Hungary. Orbán's cabinet is the first European government that seeks to close a successful university for political reasons, they said.

The directors said in a letter published by The Financial Times that the amendment of Hungary's law on higher education sets conditions for non-EU higher education institutions which cannot be met:
the act would require the CEU to establish a campus in the jurisdiction of New York State in an unfeasible timeframe;
prevent it from delivering programmes or awarding degrees accredited in both countries;
prohibit it from operating under its current name; and
force it to adopt rules that would endanger the freedom and autonomy of scientific research;
the new law also demands that the U.S. federal government act as the negotiator to the Hungarian government, though higher education is a state competence and the U.S. government has no jurisdiction.

Although the government was defending the measure by saying that no institution is above the law in Hungary and so CEU must also comply with regulations, critics ponder that if CEU has not been compliant with local rules for years, why the government needed to create new legislation with the clear aim of making CEU non-compliant.
The directors also argue that "the act directly and deliberately threatens the existence of the most accomplished and internationally acclaimed university in the country."
"We believe the closure of this distinguished private university would be an act of national self-harm by the government of Hungary, a tragedy for central and eastern Europe, and a blow to academic freedom and independence worldwide."
"The government of Hungary is the first European government in the 21st century to seek to close a solvent and successful university for political reasons."
The signatories of the letter urge Orbán's governement "to reconsider and withdraw these measures."
"We also urge European politicians to comprehend the magnitude of this development, to speak up to defend academic freedom and autonomy, and to consider whether in current circumstances the governing party's membership of the European People's Party remains tenable."

Prof. Erik Berglöf - Director, Institute of Global Affairs, LSE

Prof. Grzegorz Ekiert - Director, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University

Prof. Kevin Featherstone - Director, European Institute, LSE

Prof. Jan Kubik - Director, School of East European and Slavonic Studies, UCL

Dr. Uta Staiger - Executive Director, European Institute, UCL

Last Updated on Monday, 10 April 2017 13:37

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