Viktor Orbán on higher education: An outrage

About a week ago Viktor Orbán announced that he will be taking a two-week holiday because his “batteries were exhausted.” He will spend time with his family in Felcsút and perhaps at Lake Balaton. I’m sure that a lot of people received this announcement with a certain amount of relief because lately the Hungarian prime minister has been delivering speeches that made not the slightest sense. Perhaps these people thought that a two-week rest would have a beneficial effect on Orbán’s nerves and senses.

However, no such luck. He changed his mind and instead of taking a vacation he began a tour, meeting important segments of society. Now, don’t think that these include groups who don’t necessarily agree with him. No, he has pleasant exchanges, perhaps several daily, with his followers. The speeches he has made at these encounters are perhaps even more outrageous than his earlier ones. It was during one of these meetings, this time with the leading lights of Hungarian capitalism, that he announced that at least fifty percent of the banking sector must be in Hungarian hands. I don’t think that I have to elaborate on the nonsensical nature of this particular announcement given the lack of capital in Hungary. It was also during one of these fruitful talks that he announced that public utilities companies in the future should operate on a non-profit basis. Again, I don’t think that one has to dwell on the impossibility of such a scheme–unless, of course, these companies are nationalized, in which case they would probably operate at a loss.

Well, yesterday Orbán met with the leaders of Fidelitas, the youth organization of Fidesz. Most of these people, for example Péter Ágh (1982-), the chairman of Fidelitas, also have high positions either in the Fidesz parliamentary caucus or in the government. So, the prime minister didn’t have to worry too much about adverse reactions to his ideas on higher education.

Let’s get to perhaps the most outrageous idea: within a few years Hungarian higher education will be financially self-sustaining. In plain English, the government will not put a penny into maintaining Hungarian universities. Well, such a thing is simply unimaginable.

There is no country in the world where higher education is maintained simply through tuition. Not even in the United States, which is usually brought up as the example of the most unfair system of higher education in the western world. But in the United States not even private universities, where tuition fees are very high, can exist simply on tuition paid by students. They still need massive financial help from alumni and, yes, grants for research projects or even the teaching of certain subjects that might be useful from the government’s point of view. For instance, during my tenure at Yale we received a grant of $100,000 for a number of years to teach Polish, for which the university didn’t have available funds. And naturally there are the state universities that receive large sums of money from state budgets. For example, for the 2012-2013 school year the University of Connecticut received $284 million from the state of Connecticut. A nice sum, although because of budget cuts it is $45 million less than the year before.

And after Orbán announced that he is planning to maintain Hungarian state universities from tuition fees alone, he immediately added that “I’m an enemy of tuition because we don’t know where students will get the money for tuition. Therefore I’m not arguing in favor of the introduction of a tuition system, but instead I am advocating an arrangement by which the state gives an opportunity to the poorer students to be able to educate themselves through long-term loans.” Thus tuition is not tuition if it is paid with borrowed money.

He elaborated on this plan by saying that “the government doesn’t want to finance walls. Thus we are not interested in ensuring that certain institutions continue to function, but instead we want students to have influence through their application decisions which universities are good and which are not.” This needs a bit of “translation.”

Let’s start with the basic educational philosophy of Viktor Orbán. He wants to limit the number of students who embark on university studies. While the European Union is encouraging countries to increase the number of college graduates, Orbán’s Hungary is moving in the opposite direction. He and Rózsa Hoffmann, undersecretary in charge of education, severely cut back on the number of tuition-free slots–from 53,000 to 32,300.  The immediate result of this decision was that 30,000 fewer high school graduates even applied to college this year.

Now, if I understand Orbán’s words correctly, he wants to limit the number of institutions as well. In a way that makes sense: fewer students need fewer colleges and universities. The decision as to which institutions remain will be based on the number of applicants to each university. Fewer applicants will mean the closing of the school. And the few popular schools that remain will be maintained by the students. They will be the ones who will make sure that the walls of the buildings do not collapse.  Today, in fact, the cabinet will discuss the results of the applications, and those colleges that were less popular will not receive any government subsidy. That is, they will die.

If Fidesz wins the next election, in the next three to five years the “system will be operational [üzembiztos].” And the saddest thing about all this is that his young audience on the ship where the meeting was held didn’t tell him, “You know what?  Jump into the Danube, you fraud!”

54 comments

  1. Kirsten :
    So economic survival might be possible only if democracy is suspended? I think it is related to what we were speaking about in the other thread and what has (apparently) happened in Romania as well – in a very complicated situation, the democratic institutions are unable to generate workable solutions in these countries. I for one find it at least honest that this is admitted so that it is clear that those who want democracy really have to make a fresh attempt. That will be easier than the search for how to square democracy with the Viktor Orban-system.

    This is not an admission, this is just building up an excuse to be able to turn to more openly totalitarian solutions. So, let’s say the economy turns really bad (there is a high chance for that, not only because of the financial crisis in the EU, but also because of the current government’s inept economic policies, or maybe simply because Orban won’t enter into an agreement with the IMF)… in that case, Orban has the perfect excuse to initiate emergency measures and suspend what remained of the Hungarian democratic system.

    Simply put, he has plans to use an economic crisis to his advantage and centralize his power further. So, I think what he really meant is “I’m really trying to avoid such situation, but in case it is unavoidable, (and I’ll make sure it is unavoidable), I can’t do anything else but institute an alternative political system. You see, it’s not my fault, I’m doing everything to avoid it”.

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  2. Our “most dearestest” leader, Orban the 5th, was spreading the pearls of wisdom today. Here is more from the same speech. Please correct the translation. For instance, I’m not sure about the “centralized unity” (központi összefogás). What is that? I’m pretty sure the “half-Asian hordes” will blow the fuse with the turul troopers … Enjoy.

    “Unity is not a matter of intentions but a matter of power. Maybe there are countries where it does not work this way, like in the Scandinavian countries, but such half-Asian hordes like us can only unite if there is power present. This does not preclude consultation, debate and democracy, but there is a need for centralized unity as the country’s historical heritage suggests.”

    „Az összefogás nem szándék kérdése, hanem erő kérdése. Lehet hogy vannak országok, ahol ez nem így működik, például a skandinávoknál, de egy ilyen félázsiai népség, mint mi, akkor tud összefogni, ha erő van. Ez nem zárja ki a konzultációt, a vitát és a demokráciát, de kell egy központi összefogás, ami az ország történelmi tapasztalataiból is levonható”

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  3. Mutt, probably you will not find consolation in the interpretation that he has already noticed that you are not “complete Asian hordes” anymore. Very weird! It is difficult to detect any Asian element in the faces of Hungarians if they are not of Vietnamese origin and immigrated 20 to 25 years ago. But I am curious to learn how many people buy into this “medieval Asian tribe” thinking. I am afraid not too few…

    Which brings me to the point that An raised. It might be that OV simply prepares his people for the imminent autocracy he is going to establish now officially. But for me he said: I have no other clue to stabilise the economy than autocracy. I am nearly sure that he will not stabilise it even with autocracy – so why is his alleged objective compelling? Matolcsy will not become brighter when serving an autocrat and most educated people know that…

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  4. Kirsten, Orban’ is not interested in stabilizing the economy. He is interested in riding things out and making the most of any situation that comes along, good or bad…. You are asking questions that a logical person/politician would ask… he is not logical, he has mental issues.

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  5. Kirsten: “It might be that OV simply prepares his people for the imminent autocracy he is going to establish now officially. But for me he said: I have no other clue to stabilise the economy than autocracy. ”

    This guy forgets that he used to be the promising young man who was the promise of a new democracy, following decades of autocracy (or worse). But it seems that power has this strange effect on memory…

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  6. “but such half-Asian hordes like us can only unite if there is power present. This does not preclude consultation ”

    Half-Asians? ..hahaha.. Ok, maybe some Hungarians still have tiny 0.000001% of asian heritage in them. But as he make this statement, has he checked his own heritage? Is he excluding all others Hungarians who have immigrated hundreds of years ago to this country. He is crazier than I thought!

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  7. enufff :
    “but such half-Asian hordes like us can only unite if there is power present. This does not preclude consultation ”
    Half-Asians? ..hahaha.. Ok, maybe some Hungarians still have tiny 0.000001% of asian heritage in them.

    enuff, actually this statement is very interesting. So, who is the True Hungarian then? I mean even from Jobbik or the nationalistic movements perspective, what are the percentages of Aian and whatever need to be in the mix to be True Hungarian. As we know it cannot be Jewish in the mix or gypsy for that matter. Anyone read anything about the perfect Hungarian race or those who qualify? Maybe Kovach can answer this, as he was very immersed about the Jewish settling in Hungary, maybe he has other information about who mixed into this Asian blood?

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  8. Some1: “Maybe Kovach can answer this,”

    There are very few actual thematic descriptions from the early “history”. There is always a tremendous amount of mythology put into many national historical description even when some documentation is available. The documentation in many casas is also questionable , particularly beacuse it was written well past the events described and often by faulty copying thrpugh the ages. Based on information available to me, there are some answers and some very large questionmarks regarding Hungary’s original and subsequently developed population.

    First of all it rarely happaned that an extant population completely disappeared from a particular locality (Maybe Jericho was one, based on the Bible.) Thus, folks who resides in the Carpathian basis prior to the Hungarians are indicated to present at the times of the Hungarian arrival, i.e, the avars who came in two groups about 200 years apart.It is also indicated that the Slavs were introduced into Central Europe by the avars, thus it can be expected that some slavic population also existed in the Basin. Remnants of earlier arrivals , Huns, Marcomanni, Quadi, Sarmatians, Dacians, Gepidi, Alani and Jazigi probaly melded into each other if not migrated with their folks elsewhere. However, even these were mixed and only partly Aryan.

    The Hungarians arrived with several Kazar tribes (at least three) into the Basin, they apparently mixed well with the non-Khazar portion (Of course there are those who claim that the E European Jews are descendants of the Khazars, but I leave that up to folks like Shlomo Sand who spent more time investigationg the issue.)

    Subsequent to the “Hungarian” arrival some (most likely ) turkic groups who battled the Hungarians also arrived such as some remnants of the Petchenegs. Then came an extensive Germanic immigration to support St Stephen’s powergrab. Following that the major entrence was the two Cuman intrusions one before one after the Mongol invasion. Those were mixed with Jazigi also, settling mainly in the middle of the Basin ( Kun-, Jasz-, etc. At least form other area DNA studies not many mongols mixed with the local populations, they killed rather than just raped.
    Subsequent changes will be in another post, becuase it is getting too long for one.

    .

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  9. However, some Mongol (or affiliate tribe) folks did stay, as there are several Tatar- localities and it is not an uncommon name in Hungary. Subsequent to the “Tatarjaras” German settlers were brought in, mainly for the mining districts and the very extensive Cuman settlement took place. The tatarjaras also caused some further development of pastoral localities in the mountains, which were less accessible to roaming Mongol hordes.
    The causes of the next intrusions were the appearance of the Seljuk Turks in the Balkans, pushing folks northward. This resulted in Vlach and later Serbian and Croat migration to the Southern area of the Basin.
    After Mohacs, there were only limited intrusions until the expulsion of the Turks, when very extensive German and any other immigration was encouraged or only permitted as in the Banat and Bacska region were Hungarians were not permitted to settle (revenge for Thokoly first and Rakoczy later). Again, as in the Tatar case, only limited Turkish remnants stayed in the Basin. The cities became extensively Germanized and mostly the center and specific areas (“Szekelyfold”) were considered original settlers.
    The major difference after the Tatarjaras from the previous immigration was that the folks melded into the population rather than forming unique “foreign” localities. Part of the reason for this was that these migrations were government organized (Hapsburgs mainly) and awarded specific privileges. In many of those localities only limited mixing took place between the newcomers and the extant population.
    There was not a specific period of Gypsy immigration into Hungary; it was almost continuous from the 1500s onward.
    In spite of very extensive Hapsburg efforts, there was “magyarization’ in the Basin, at that time mostly voluntary. The next and last large group arriving in the Basin was the Galician Jews. Their integration into the rest of the population was a mixed event, some were very successful, and some were not.
    Thus, Hungary was and always had a polyglot population (some components strictly Asiatic) that after the Turkish wars was incapable of assimilating the waves of immigrants into a homogenous society.
    So who are the “true” Hungarians? Those who feel that they are, those who are willing to be part (and not deriding) its history, those who want work for the betterment of the COMMON good and not only their own can fairly be considered true Hungarians. Not to dissimilar answer than what would be given by a “true” Jew regarding Israel.

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  10. Louis Kovach :
    So who are the “true” Hungarians? Those who feel that they are, those who are willing to be part (and not deriding) its history, those who want work for the betterment of the COMMON good and not only their own can fairly be considered true Hungarians. Not to dissimilar answer than what would be given by a “true” Jew regarding Israel.

    I liked the “rape first, kill later” description of the Mongols.

    As others already stated the half-Asian wasn’t a “genetical” category from the Grofaz’ part. If it was, then he should be chased to Canada.

    Why was the last sentence relavant?

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  11. Mutt Damon :
    Kovach, I don’t want to interrupt you, but don’t forget your are answering a question about the perfect Hungarian race …

    I second that.
    Let me rephrase the questions, that I believe was very simple and did not require a dissertation on Hungarian anthropology.
    Based on Orban’s statement, the knowledge that Hungarians are kind of a crossbreed, the advocacy for the True Hungarians’ rights by Jobbik and other nationalists, what is the True Hungarian make-up? Who are the True Hungarians who would have all the Hungarian rights or would not be accused of trying to take over the land? How many percentage of Tatar, Mongol, Turkish, etc. blood can they have so they can be still called True Hungarians? Can any Jewish blood mixed in that, and what percentage? (Orban said that Jews in Hungary are minority, so he does not consider them Hungarian.) Same with gypsies.. How about if a Transylvanian married a Romanian and they had children. Would the child be Hungarian? Are my kids Hungarian, Canadians or Jews? My other half is Canadian (Irish, Scottish), and I am a Hungarian Jew, but I am not sure about my Jewish relatives history (Was my great-great-great grandmother raped by the Turks, or even by the Mongols? No clue.) Who is a True Hungarian?

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  12. Louis Kovach :

    So who are the “true” Hungarians? Those who feel that they are, those who are willing to be part (and not deriding) its history, those who want work for the betterment of the COMMON good and not only their own can fairly be considered true Hungarians.

    So, your children and grandchildren do not qualify, on the other hand most homosexuals, and most Jews are. WHy would Orban call them minorities? THis cannot be the answer. Read above.

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  13. Louis Kovach, Also I am not sure that most Transylvanians or across the border Hungarians who will have a voting right would qualify either based on your non genetical, but broad description, while Paul and other foreign posters (even Prof. Kim Scheppele) qualify. THey do want to work for the betterment of the COMMON good.

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  14. Mr Kovach you wrote in reply to Mr Damon ** “Due to similarity,” **

    I always find it difficult to understand the problem you are referring to here.

    if you are talking about Jews, then you are mixing up a ‘religion’ with what to me is an ethnic origins. If you were to go back in time to say the period at the beginning of Imperial Rome, you would find that quite a large part of the Greek population of the Levant had adopted the Jewish monotheistic faith. Admittedly the Jewish religion and many other faiths encourage marriage within the faith.

    Please do not confuse a person’s faith with their ethnic origin that way leads you into an anthropologists ‘fairyland’ where you will meet up more weirdo’s than you can shake a stick at in a long day.

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  15. Some1: No, my children and grandchildren do not qualify, unless they want be part of Hungary at some future time. None of them speak Hungarian and they know very little about Hungarian history. I consider them good Americans.

    As far as I am concerned, once one hyphenates, the problem starts. Old Dakota saying “You cant ride two horses at once” or another version “If you try riding two horses you will fall off both”

    Regarding the Jewish issue, I can’t comment unless you tell me if that is a religion, a nationality or a race. (BTW, I know the term race is chaning meaning thiese days, I use it here in the conventional sense.)
    But I would consider your children, and hope, they are good Canadians.

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  16. I fail to see why anyone is answering or commenting on louis kovatch’s provocations, and idiotic remarks. I for one, pledge that I will never again engage in any communication with him, nor will I comment on anything he writes about. If we all do that he may get bored. Or maybe not, he is so full of himself, he probably would still enjoy writing to “deaf ears”.

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  17. Hi Thomas!

    I absolutely agree with you – but sometimes the idiotic comments are so funny/strange that I have to answer – and it seems that others feel the same.

    Btw, welcome back from Russia – or are you another Thomas ?

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  18. Louis Kovach :
    Some1: No, my children and grandchildren do not qualify, unless they want be part of Hungary at some future time. None of them speak Hungarian and they know very little about Hungarian history. I consider them good Americans.
    As far as I am concerned, once one hyphenates, the problem starts. Old Dakota saying “You cant ride two horses at once” or another version “If you try riding two horses you will fall off both”
    Regarding the Jewish issue, I can’t comment unless you tell me if that is a religion, a nationality or a race. (BTW, I know the term race is chaning meaning thiese days, I use it here in the conventional sense.)
    But I would consider your children, and hope, they are good Canadians.

    They are great Canadians, thanks for saying. I am sure the people in Transylvania are good Romanians too. Jewish in Canada (or for that matter in the USA) does not qualify as a deciding factor about citizenship, and even if you do not spek English you qualify as a citizen (otherwise many ’56 Hungarians also would of had to wait iver a decade at least for their citizenship). So it is ony the language? I know many Jews in Hungary who ONLY speak Hungarian, born in Hungary (even their great-grandparents born there), worked all of their lives, but Orban considers them minority. (let’s not even start with what Csatary or kuricinfo conisiders them.) Would you agree with that?

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  19. Odin’s lost eye :
    Mr Kovach you wrote in reply to Mr Damon ** “Due to similarity,” **
    I always find it difficult to understand the problem you are referring to here.

    The last sentence indeeds helps understand this crude logic. “Hungarianness” is in actual fact the Hungarian’s true religion. Now the obsession with Jews becomes clearer – they already have a religion and most probably do not consider “Hungarianness” a religion! Admittedly, “true Hungarians” also claim (or pretend?) to be of Christian faith – but this sentence of Kovach clearly puts it into perspective (as do the actions of the “true Hungarians”). The amazing mix of influences and people in the Carpathian Basin as described by Kovach eventually ends with: the true Hungarians are those who believe the national myth in its most colourful manifestation. Wow.

    I am very grateful for this as I was really thinking that there must be more to it than this. So koszonom szepen to Kovach and his Fidesz crew!

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  20. Some1: “I am sure the people in Transylvania are good Romanians too.”

    IMHO, there is a difference in feelings when the people move and when borders move. Based on your terminology, all of the Palestininas are good Israelis because the border moved past them. I did not say that language alone is the determining factor. But I hope you are aware that in the USA one has to take a lnguage and constitution exam to become a citizen.

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  21. Kirsten: “Kovach eventually ends with: the true Hungarians are those who believe the national myth in its most colourful manifestation. Wow.”

    For national myths, please see Shlomo Sand’s eminent description.

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