Hungarian university “non-tuition” will be the highest in Europe

The other day a caller to Klubrádió, who was a college student in the seventies, claimed that KISZ, the  communist youth organization, represented student interests better than HÖOK does nowadays. That is quite an indictment.

I have written about HÖOK (Hallgatói Önkormányzatok Országos Konferenciája) several times. This student association is built in a pyramid fashion. Each university has its own elected officials and each then sends delegates to a nationwide body. At the top is the president of HÖOK, David Nagy, a balding, graying thirty-five-year-old. I think it’s best not to ask what he is studying and how long he has been at it. These student organizations, at least in the past, received sizable sums of money that could be spent, for example, on awarding  scholarships to fellow students. Granting such far-reaching powers to students borders on lunacy. I’ve heard stories that the money certain student associations received ended up being “invested” in stocks and real estate.

There is another problem with HÖOK. During the last twenty years it became an arm of Fidesz. Viktor Orbán used the student organization for political purposes. Fidesz first became popular among students when in 1998 the Orbán government abolished the tuition the Horn government had introduced as part of Lajos Bokros’s austerity program in early 1995. The second attempt to introduce tuition took place during the Gyurcsány government, but a Fidesz-sponsored referendum torpedoed that effort.

Fidelitas reklam 2008

Don’t be a sheep! because they will shear you
Fidelitas campaign advertisement for the 2008 referendum

Then came 2010 and the Orbán government decided that tuition was necessary after all. I suspect there is more to this story than an effort to balance the budget. Orbán became enamored with the wacko idea that real value comes only from physical work. His government lowered the number of hours that students in trade schools had hitherto spent on literature, history, and languages. These people will be practically illiterate after finishing school at the age of 16 and will be let loose totally unprepared for any work requiring, for example, computer skills. He is also convinced that there are just too many people finishing college. He would prefer to go back to the Kádár regime’s practice of keeping the number of university graduates very low. By introducing  high tuitition Orbán could kill two birds with one stone. Reduce the numbers and save money.

Now, the only things that had to be figured out were how they could possibly convince students and their parents that tuition was not really tuition and the Hungarian public and the politicians of the European Union that this move would not decrease the number of university students. A pretty difficult task, but until now Orbán has been quite successful at his own game. First of all, he keeps insisting that there will be no tuition in Hungarian colleges and universities because students will be entitled to student loans. Mind you, few people would believe that if you buy a TV set on credit it costs nothing. Although Hungarians’ knowledge of personal finance is low, they are not that unsophisticated.  As for the decreased numbers, the government spokesman only yesterday announced that high tuition fees will actually increase the number of university students. Just as Lajos Kósa claimed that registration will expand the number of voters. All this with a straight face.

But it seems that the honeymoon between HÖOK and Fidesz is over. Of course, I don’t know what kinds of conversations are going on between members of the student body and the “officials” of HÖOK, but I have the feeling that the student bigwigs are getting an earful. These student leaders are not very popular in the first place. In fact, in certain student circles they are so unpopular that a new rival student organization was established about a year ago called Hallgatói Hálozat (Student Network [HAHA]). I wrote about them and HÖOK back in February. They were the ones who organized a large student demonstration while HÖOK at ELTE actually turned against them. But this time HÖOK also had to move because the latest government announcement that came out of the blue upset the entire academic community, including the students.

Already last year the government reduced the number of students receiving tuition-free education fairly substantially, but it affected only entering freshmen. Then about a month ago they made another huge cut: only one-third of the students, about 30,000, wouldn’t have to pay tuition; the rest would be saddled with very large loans. But then came the bombshell two days ago: the plan has changed so that only 10,500 students can study without paying tuition. Well, that was the last straw, especially since the government didn’t discuss the plan with anyone before the announcement. Not even the university presidents.

HÖOK announced a demonstration for Wednesday and HAHA will join them. They are supported by one of the teachers’ unions, and they have the backing of the Conference of University Presidents. As it is, the Hungarian government spends less money on higher education than other European countries. Only about 0.5% of GDP while the European average is 1.0%. In the future, universities will receive even less money. Some of the universities can’t even heat their buildings and will have to close for two weeks during the exam period.

Tuition fees in Europe €/semester / mohaonline.hu

Tuition fees in Europe €/semester / mohaonline.hu

In Europe there are nine countries where there is no tuition at all. The closest university that charges no tuition west of the border is the University of Vienna (the 16 euros is a registration fee). Even where there is tuition it is minuscule–with the exception of Portugal and Spain–in comparison to what the Orbán government is planning to charge. The result will be a flight to neighboring countries to attend university. The Hungarian brain drain will continue.

Some Fidesz politicians complained that the government communication is not quite up to snuff on the tuition issue. I’m sorry, but I doubt that a move from no tuition to €913.00 per semester can be politically well communicated.

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lasagna_bolognese
Guest

I generally agree with the idea of tuition – in the way it was introduced by Gyurcsány: the institutions kept the money and had to use it for investments in education and scholarships, so it directly went back to the students.

Now universities will have much higher fees that are just “eaten up” by the central government. A brand new student loan system is also set up that will be an even higher burden on the budget (especially in the long run) due to the subsidized interest rates than free higher education was in the first place!

However, I find the infographic highly manipulative: here in the Netherlands we pay €850/semester (this is a non-private university); in the UK as far as I know tuition can surpass even £5000/semester. Why lie with the data if by showing the ratio of tuition to PPP real wages they would have achieved the same effect? I do not understand.

Oh yeah, Mr Giro-Szasz is the best by explaning that by introducing tuition fees, more people will go to university and obtain a degree. My a**.

Paul
Guest
The use of the word ‘tuition’ here is a bit confusing for us Brits. In British English, tuition means what you get from a tutor in a tutorial, or you might get private tuition after school towards passing an exam – effectively teaching at a personal or small-scale level. I assume the use of the word here means the payment for tuition – i.e. what we would call ‘tuition fees’. Is this a translation of the Hungarian phrase, or is this American English? As for tuition fees in the England, I regret to say we now have them. Up to 15 or 20 years ago university tuition was free, indeed you even got a grant for living expenses. But then it was decided to impose fees and a ‘student loan’ scheme was introduced to allow students to borrow the money to pay their fees at no (or little) interest. The money only has to be paid back once the student is earning above a certain salary, and even then it is paid back over quite a long time, so it isn’t much of a burden. However, it is still a very controversial subject over here, especially as the tuition fees… Read more »
Paul
Guest

“Orbán became enamored with the wacko idea that real value comes only from physical work. His government lowered the number of hours that students in trade schools had hitherto spent on literature, history, and languages.” “He is also convinced that there are just too many people finishing college. He would prefer to go back to the Kádár regime’s practice of keeping the number of university graduates very low.”

Whenever I question OV’s policies re universities, this is exactly the response I get from my wife and Fidesz-supporting in-laws. Despite the clear insanity of these ideas, they’ve been pushing/supporting this line for a while now, so either the propaganda is very effective, or the Fideszniks actually believed this sort of nonsence before it became official policy.

We joke about Orbán wanting to take the country back to the middle ages, but it often does seem that this is exactly what he, and his supporters, want to do. How on earth can any sane person think that this will, in any possible way, be a good thing for HUngary?

Paul
Guest

The last from me for tonight and rather OT (or not):

An interesting story from the BBC on the movement in South Tyrol to break away from Italy and reunite with Austria – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20633126

It seems they were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but were ceded to Italy after WWI. And, even after 100 years, some people still regard this as a great tragedy and want to return to Austria.

Sound familiar?

gdfxx
Guest

Paul :
The last from me for tonight and rather OT (or not):
An interesting story from the BBC on the movement in South Tyrol to break away from Italy and reunite with Austria – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20633126
It seems they were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but were ceded to Italy after WWI. And, even after 100 years, some people still regard this as a great tragedy and want to return to Austria.
Sound familiar?

This is interesting form a Hungarian point of view: many Hungarians in Transylvania refer to South Tyrol as the example they would like the Romanian government to follow with them. I also know many ethnic Romanians from Transylvania who would prefer an autonomous Transylvania because they feel that tax money between Transylvania and the rest of the country flows only one way: out.

gdfxx
Guest
Paul : The use of the word ‘tuition’ here is a bit confusing for us Brits. In British English, tuition means what you get from a tutor in a tutorial, or you might get private tuition after school towards passing an exam – effectively teaching at a personal or small-scale level. I assume the use of the word here means the payment for tuition – i.e. what we would call ‘tuition fees’. Is this a translation of the Hungarian phrase, or is this American English? It is American English. Tuition is what one pays here for getting admission to the courses and exams and then, if all requirements are met, getting the degree. In addition there are fees (such as lab fees, computer fees etc.), textbooks to be bought. And then there are room and board fees, most private universities require that at least the first two years are spent on the campus. There is a great variation between tuition paid to a private university (especially the Ivy League variety) and a state university. Also it is worth mentioning that financial aid is offered by almost all universities and this aid is usually based on the financial means of the… Read more »
Guest

Paul,

yes there are revisionists in “Alto Adige” (that’s the oficial Italian name for South Tyrol) but most people are very happy with the influx of Italian tourists each year …

We were there two years ago (over August 20) and the town was packed. It was really funny:

In the restaurants, shops, hotels etc. everybody is bilingual and when my wife approached they addressed her in Italian (she looks more the Mediterranean type, though she’s blonde …) but when they saw me (typical six foot blonde German) they immediately switched to German …

Of course a big factor is the (limited) political independency of the area, so in fact German and Italian language is “equal”, not like in Mussolini times!

Btw, the scenery is beautiful, the food with its mixture of Austrian mountain dishes and Italian specialties is delicious – my wife enjoyed it very much …

RE tuition:

This is an enormous backward step for Hungary – does Fidesz really believe in that return to the Middle Ages?

Although one is tempted with the ideas that there are too many lawyers – anyone remember “The hitchhikers’s guide to the galaxy” ?

Guest
London Calling! I too was confused with your ‘tuition’ idiom, Eva! But it became clear as it was read in context. ‘The Americans and the English are two races, separated by a common language’ (by George Bernard Shaw – who was Irish!) Paul explains very well the English system – the only bit that needs explaining is that in the 60’s-80’s students got a full grant – depending on their parents’ income; whereas today they have to take out loans – sometimes leaving college with a £35,000 debt (12.3m Forint!). Paul does explain this but omits to mention that in the grant-based system only 8% of students went on to get a degree – and was seen as elitist (and couldn’t really be afforded by the poor, even with a full grant) – whereas today many many more do. The previous government declared that 50% should have a university education. Although we are nowhere near that, that was the aim. Current taxation cannot afford the cost (and Scotland’s supposed free model is under pressure – and will be more so if they gain independence). Many people (especially the 8% elitist graduates) believe the standard of degrees has been severely weakened… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!

Yes Wolfi the answer is 42!

Regards

Charlie

Bowen
Guest
@ Charlie: “I would not be surprised if Orban – or Matolcsy have looked over the fence at the English loan model and adapted it with their prejudices to come up with the present system.” I’m sure that we will hear the argument (as with the electoral law changes) that – well, the British do it too, how dare you criticise Hungary? But, of course, we can’t compare Hungarian and UK universities. Apart from the difference in personal wealth between the two countries, there are few UK universities ranking outside the top 150 in the world. There are usually two or three UK universities in the top ten. The highest-ranking Hungarian university (the Soros-run CEU, which only offers postgraduate courses) is at something like 230th place. The most credible Hungarian universities (ELTE, Szeged, etc.) are all languishing at less than 400th place. Only yesterday ELTE declared that yes, Semjen clearly plagiarised large chunks of his PhD thesis, but never mind that, because there is no means to strip him of his qualification. And this is one of the most ‘prestigious’ institutions in the country. So, expect the Hungarian brain drain to continue, as it always has, with the best and… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!

Interesting response Bowen it will be an interesting ‘watch’ (even if a long-term one) to see how Hungary’s universities fare in the rankings after these changes.

I had not connected the low-level of degrees as being a catalyst for leaving Hungary – as I thought they left after qualification.

It is entirely understandable that there is an exodus before graduation if the degrees are seen as becoming more and more worthless.

And goodness! The brainless pot-bellied Magyar Gárda and Jobbik are more brainless than I imagined!

Regards

Charlie

Guest

London Calling!

Btw Eva – have you banned LK?

Or has the resident troll given up flogging a dead horse?

(I only mention it out of curiosity – I don’t miss the non-sequitural rubbish!)

Regards

Charlie

Kirsten
Guest

Thought in a rather twisted way, it may not be so wrong to make more Hungarians acquire knowledge at universities abroad. As we read here frequently, there are sizeable obstacles to a thorough transformation of the Hungarian education system including the staff and the curricula, hence more people making use of universities that already teach the currently more relevant issues could shorten the “transformation process”. I also benefited a lot from switching to a West Berlin University in the early 1990s, you were spared the transitional problems (staff, curricula, libraries…). The more difficult issue then would be how to make a return to Hungary attractive to these people.

Member

I think it is with the subject. Zsolt Semjen, Orban’s right hand man who is coincidentally the head of KNDP (coalition with Fidesz), minister w/o a portfolio said upon ELTE decided that he was wrong and acted immorally by plagiarizing in 1992 “I acted in complete good faith, which is why I refuse all the moral nature of the accusation.” Makes me wonder how much his eduction cost, and why doesn’t he go work in a factory, when Orban value that better.
Now, the interesting part of the retroactive plagiarizing case that ELTE says that since it happened twenty years ago (where clear guidelines did not exist), they cannot act retroactively. As we all know Orban consistently put in retroactive measures since 2010, so I am not sure why couldn’t Fidesz and KNDP should not receive their own pill. As well, I would make every person who profited from the flat tax (that actually punished the poor) to repay for their eduction that they received free from the highly cursed communists and socialist.

Ron
Guest

Paul: I am equally puzzled as to how a relatively poor country, still recovering from the war, could afford to send my generation to university, and pay us to go there, whilst, 40 years later, a much richer country can apparently no longer afford to do this.

I wish there was a clear explanation. But unfortunately, there is none. What I can tell you is that is has to to with the inflation, increase of wages, resulting increase in costs,which in turn increase inflation, etc, etc.

Please find the historical inflation rates of the UK.
http://safalra.com/other/historical-uk-inflation-price-conversion/

Please note the inflation from 1974 to 1982, which is consistent over 5%.

In order to get rid of this circle you and decrease the inflation and reduce cost/ increase taxes or duties. Tuition fees is one way of doing this.

Paul Wal
Guest

Eva, excuse me, I know it is very much off topic, but still we are talking about the most vulnerable people, very often with many psychiatrical problems who should be treated much better. It is disgusting how Fidesz/Orban is dealing with these people:

Orbán initiates “national consultation” on homelessness following court ruling against ban

Human Rights Watch, 7 December 2012
“The Constitutional Court ruling makes clear that homeless people
should be helped, not treated as criminals,” said Lydia
Gall, Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at Human Rights
Watch. “The government should respect the judgement of Hungary’s
top court rather than undermining the rule of law.”
“International human rights experts and Hungary’s top court have made clear that
the government’s approach to homelessness jeopardizes the rights of
some of the most vulnerable people in society.” Gall said. “The
government should act on its human rights obligations and protect,
not take away, the rights of those without housing.”

A comment on politics.hu by a morally retarded moron:
Streets must be cleansed from these homeless. They not only look awful but they also pose a serious health hazard. It’s not a “human right” to live in public spaces.

gdfxx
Guest

Some1 :
As well, I would make every person who profited from the flat tax (that actually punished the poor) to repay for their eduction that they received free from the highly cursed communists and socialist.

The free education during the communist era wasn’t really free. The government took out large (unofficial) taxes from most people’s paycheck to pay for it and for all other social welfare benefits (such as for example free apartments). The privileged were naturally excluded from this taxation…

Petofi1
Guest

wolfi :
Paul,
yes there are revisionists in “Alto Adige” (that’s the oficial Italian name for South Tyrol) but most people are very happy with the influx of Italian tourists each year …
We were there two years ago (over August 20) and the town was packed. It was really funny:
In the restaurants, shops, hotels etc. everybody is bilingual and when my wife approached they addressed her in Italian (she looks more the Mediterranean type, though she’s blonde …) but when they saw me (typical six foot blonde German) they immediately switched to German …
Of course a big factor is the (limited) political independency of the area, so in fact German and Italian language is “equal”, not like in Mussolini times!
Btw, the scenery is beautiful, the food with its mixture of Austrian mountain dishes and Italian specialties is delicious – my wife enjoyed it very much …
RE tuition:
This is an enormous backward step for Hungary – does Fidesz really believe in that return to the Middle Ages?
Although one is tempted with the ideas that there are too many lawyers – anyone remember “The hitchhikers’s guide to the galaxy” ?

Shakespeare, who was trained in the Law himself, believed that there were too many lawyers.

Petofi1
Guest

Kirsten :
Thought in a rather twisted way, it may not be so wrong to make more Hungarians acquire knowledge at universities abroad. As we read here frequently, there are sizeable obstacles to a thorough transformation of the Hungarian education system including the staff and the curricula, hence more people making use of universities that already teach the currently more relevant issues could shorten the “transformation process”. I also benefited a lot from switching to a West Berlin University in the early 1990s, you were spared the transitional problems (staff, curricula, libraries…). The more difficult issue then would be how to make a return to Hungary attractive to these people.

It’s not even ‘twisted’ that they should. Far better balanced and objective teaching is to be had outside of Hungary.

A return to Hungary would be attractive in itself once people discovered that more foreign-educated Hungarians were running, or atleast, influencing, the Hungarian system.
Presently, the country is seriously off kilter, and being kept there by the mindless promotion
of out-dated nationalistic ideals.

Breki
Guest
I dissent. Fidesz’ honey moon with HÖOK is far from over. HÖOK cannot be active on its own, they don’t have the skills and the ambition any more. The people in HÖOK (as many seemingly civil organisations) were indeed an arm of Fidesz. Fidesz knows about the questionable conduct of HÖOK people as HÖOK is known in every educational institution to be nothing more really than a freternity who among themselves divide the spolis (scholarships, state and university funding, positions in university organisations etc.). Fidesz made sure that its people are always controlled whether through blackmail or “ownership”. Apart from organisational and ambition issues, this is a reason why – I predict – their efforts will go nowhere. HÖOK will be active only to the extent it shows that it exists, to create a certain legimitacy (similarly to the constitutonal court, which from time to time, delivers a fundamentally not to- provocatove resolution, so it can look like it is not a pawn of the Orbán). HÖOK, of course, will be very active under any new government. Fidesz only made a calculated choice (realizing the risks of course). There are huge tensions in the budget. Fidesz knows exactly that the… Read more »
spectator
Guest
Well, the old posters get their resurrection after all, and rightfully so, reality catching up, apparently. While the whole “non tuition, but..” charade nothing but a euphemistic facade – to hide the naked sheep? – there is more in this, what meets with the eyes. PM Orban does whatever it takes to reduce debt, expressing his dismay over the previous governments negligence toward the financial risk-taking of the average citizens too, yet he encourages students to take loans in order to be able to study! Are he out of his mind? Actually, I don’t think so. Immoral as usual, lying as always, but there is a concept, I’m pretty sure about it. Remember, lately there was no any opinion poll, which wouldn’t show clearly, that the wast majority of the young and educated people will leave Hungary as soon as they can, furthermore, most of the students planning to start their life abroad right after they get their diplomas. But imagine that, how they will manage to do so, after they have taken their “student loans” in order to study? So, as I see it, they intended to hit a couple of birds with one stone: saving money on the… Read more »
Guest

@Spectator and others:

This Orbán idea for students’ loans and the obligation to stay in Hungary afterwards seems really idiotic to me. Do they get their passports stamped or what ?

It’s no problem at all to cross “borders” in the EU and live in another member state – so what is the Hungarian government to do to those people, if they just don’t come back to Hungary at all ?

The EU has something called “freedom of residence” or similar and is generally very strict regarding discrimination – every EU citizen has similar rights in every member state.

All those crazy rules will have the effect that the best people will leave and be gladly accepted in other countries, while the less capable will have to stay in the home country.

PS:

Didn’t Hungary have similar rules /ideas 70 to 100 years ago ? Anyone remember names like von Neumann, Szilard etc ?

Maybe Fidesz wants another “brain drain” – it’ll be easier to rule if you only got stupid sheep left …

Guest

Skyping with a friend, mother of 3 young boys (1, 3, and 5 years old), highly educated, for the FIRST time mentioned the doings of the government. A man of my acquaintance, has started posting anti-Fidesz messages on FaceBook. To my knowledge, neither has ever voted. These seem to be signs of an awakening.

Member

gdfxx :

Some1 :
As well, I would make every person who profited from the flat tax (that actually punished the poor) to repay for their eduction that they received free from the highly cursed communists and socialist.

The free education during the communist era wasn’t really free. The government took out large (unofficial) taxes from most people’s paycheck to pay for it and for all other social welfare benefits (such as for example free apartments). The privileged were naturally excluded from this taxation…

Yes, but social programs must be paid somehow. Money does not grow on trees. Taxes will not be lowered because students will have to pay for their own education either. (I am not familiar with how much taxes the privileged had to pay under Kadar.) Fidesz fought against any cost to be paid for education, they were the ones who were against Gyurcsany who proposed some form of education fee.

Member

Breki :
Also the tution fee really interest people who are about to go into university (and their parents to a certain extent), not those who graduated or still go to university (they simply don’t deal with the issue any more, like young people cannot be bothered with pension increases) and the 18-22 people are the least active of all age groups.
In a sense this is democracy: when weighing competing interest, deciding between preferences, government prefers those who actually vote (like pensioners, like relatively well-off people); those who are less active voters, shall bear the consequences of their inactivity.

I think those who still goto university will care, as one year to another they will be hit up with fees that they were never budgeted for. If they want to finish university they will need to cough up the money.

Breki
Guest
Gretchen, I very much recommend Evgeny Morozov’s The net delusion (and he has another book coming out soon). It is well-written, in a way fun, and profound but scary too. The (young) guy is from Belorussia originally (now lives in the US): he is very critical of cyber optimistic views (fueled by the internet companies themselves so that they can maintain a public image that they are more than just traditional profit making enterprises). I am happy that your friends started to think about the government, but it is important never to forget that they will have to vote. And it will be a complicated process for all of us (if the current system remains). First, you will go to the municipality to get an appointment (it’s not just like you go and register) and then you go to the appointment (hopefully you will not forget about it if it’s many days away, have all the documents eready and nothing personal suddenly clashes with the appointment) to register. I guess from abroad it’s different. People can organise on facebook, like, comment, twit, blog etc. in the hundreds of thousands, but the decision will be taken in the voting booths only.… Read more »
spectator
Guest
wolfi : @Spectator and others: This Orbán idea for students’ loans and the obligation to stay in Hungary afterwards seems really idiotic to me. Do they get their passports stamped or what ? It’s no problem at all to cross “borders” in the EU and live in another member state – so what is the Hungarian government to do to those people, if they just don’t come back to Hungary at all ? Well, one always can try to run away and leave debts behind, but it isn’t an act, what everybody takes lightly. I don’t know, how this loan actually constructed, but usually there is some kind of guarantee involved, and I bet, that they will go after the money, one way or another. Within the EU isn’t that difficult to reach after someone – I’ve just heard today, that they even seeking the way to tax the profit on ones Swiss bank-account – so, it won’t happen without problems. Not to mention, if some ‘runaway’ scientist got homesick, or whatever, and comes home, facing with the consequences – accumulated interest to pay, for one – isn’t really a rosy perspective, is it? And I didn’t yet mentioned the… Read more »
Guest

@Breki–thank you for the book recommendation. When I first met my (now) friends, I was truly shocked that they had never voted. I didn’t understand. Now, I know a lot more about the situation and its background. I am hoping that their great unhappiness over the situation will lead them to register and vote. The registration process is truly Machiavellian!

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