The rule book of ELTE’s Rector Magnificus

Yesterday I tackled some aspects of Hungarian graduate education that I find distasteful, unnecessary, and possibly illegal. One of the readers of Hungarian Spectrum called my attention to ELTE’s latest rule book, a staggering 175 pages, governing all aspects of the academic careers of doctoral candidates.

Reading this rule book, I got the distinct impression that the relationship between a student and the university  is quasi-contractual, with possible legal consequences. Among the rules, in this case relating to conditions that would disqualify a faculty member from being a student’s adviser, are passages from the civil code regulating family relationships. There are well over 100 paragraphs that may affect students’ academic careers. In addition to the main body of the document, there are eight appendices (each with several more paragraphs) and six supplements.

One cannot accuse the “Rector Magnificus” of the university of not being a thorough man. Everything is minutely spelled out. For example, the rule book explains that the academic performance of a doctoral candidate can be judged to be “insufficienter,” “rite,” “cum laude,” or “summa cum laude.” A student will pass his preliminary examinations only if none of the evaluations of his performance is “insufficienter.” This rule might seem too obvious to bother with, but at the same time it might just discriminate against truly original students. Let’s say a student gets two “summas” and one “insufficienter.” Goodbye, student.

This booklet is a perfect example of the mindset that, I fear, is an integral part of the whole culture. And if I am right, it doesn’t bode well for Hungary. With such an overly bureaucratic system, an organization–and even the state as a whole–becomes dysfunctional. In fact, János Lázár only recently pretty much admitted that this is the case.

Dr. Barna Mezey, Rector Magnificus of ELTE

Dr. Barna Mezey, Rector Magnificus of ELTE

Oh yes, the “Rector Magnificus.” This is not a joke either. In the oath that is indeed compulsory, students must swear that they will always respect the Rector Magnificus and the Senate of the university. Hungarian students must swear that they will be “faithful to the Hungarian people” and will do their best to use their “knowledge to further the glory of their people and country.” But what about the student who actually thinks that the Rector Magnificus is a spineless character who doesn’t deserve respect and that in the Senate there are a number of people who really shouldn’t be there? Or what about the new Ph.D. who packs up and becomes a faculty member at a foreign university, where he presumably furthers the glory not of ELTE or the Hungarian people but the university at which he is teaching? Is he then not being faithful to the Hungarian people?

In any case, respect cannot be demanded, as the Rector Magnificus and the Senate insist. One either has respect for the university one attended or one doesn’t. No one demanded that I swear allegiance to the universities from which I graduated.  Graduation might have had a lot of pomp and circumstance, but the essence of the ceremony was the simple handing out of academic degrees. And this is how it should be.

By way of comparison I suggest you take a look at Yale University’s “Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs and Policies 2015-2016.” I am sure Hungarians who did graduate work in Hungary will be surprised by its tone, especially if they compare it to the Rector Magnificus’s rule book.

The other day we bemoaned the low ranking of Hungarian universities among the world’s institutions of higher learning. The most important consideration is “academic reputation.” Academics are asked to identify the institutions where they believe the best work is taking place within their field of expertise. The student-faculty ratio is also very important. These two considerations make up about 60% of the overall assessment. Another important component (20%) is based on the number of citations per faculty member. Thus, it should be quite clear why Hungarian universities are low on the scale.

One problem is that there are practically no English-language periodicals published in Hungary that a fellow researcher could cite. In 2012, I learned about an attempt to launch a new journal, the Hungarian Historical Review. I got so excited that I even sent them an e-mail lauding their decision to have an English-language historical periodical. But one publication is not enough. There should be many in all fields. I suspect that a lack of money had something to do with it.

The Orbán government is much more concerned with fences along the Serbian-Hungarian border, football stadiums, and lobbyists in the United States and in Germany than it is with higher education. In fact, Orbán thinks there are too many university students, and his government is making sure that there will be even fewer in the future. Therefore, I’m almost certain that the reputation of Hungarian universities will be further diminished.

But that is not the only problem. There is an appearance of rigor, manifest in the 175-page rule book, but in fact academic standards are low. More about that later.

 

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Kees Teszelszky
Guest

There were 13 issues so far of Hungarian Historical Review. See:
http://www.hunghist.org/index.php/archive
The content of the latest issue can be viewed here: http://www.hunghist.org/ (Volume 4, Issue 1)

Member

Hungarian Historical Review

National Bolshevism or National Communism: Features of Sovietization in Lithuania in the Summer of 1945 (The First Congress of the Intelligentsia)

“No One Here is Afraid of Blisters or Work!” Social Integration, Mobilization and Cooperation in Yugoslav Youth Brigades. The Example of Čačak Region

Life of an Agent: Re-Energizing Stalinism and Learning the Language of Collaboration after 1956 in Hungary

A Curious Case of Cooperation and Coexistence: Church–State Engagement and Oppositional Free Spaces in Communist Yugoslavia and East Germany

From “Occupation” to “Friendly Assistance”: The “Presence” of Soviet Troops in Czechoslovakia after August 1968

Them and Us: Narratives of Agents from the Kádár Era

Forms of Collaboration of Visual Artists in Communist Romania of the 1970s–1980s

dvhr
Guest

Low ranking of Hungarian universities? Come on.

The Szeged university is among the best of the world:

http://www.u-szeged.hu/sztehirek/2015-julius/vilag-legjobbjai-kozott?objectParentFolderId=19396

GW
Guest

A ranking of 731 is a statistical blip, By measures of internationally-received scholarship, only CEU, a post-graduate only institution with English as its working language, has a significant ranking in Europe and the world.

dvhr
Guest

Oh, yes, CEU is one of the top anti-Israeli universities. Anybody is invited, who is ready to give a “scientific” lecture on the nonexistence of Israel or some similar topic.

Webber
Guest

dvhr – that is total tripe. Where did you get that nonsense?

Guest

Remember Yusaf Akbar from CEU who posted here some nonsense a few months ago?
If they have many people like him …

Webber
Guest

Would you call George Soros, founder of CEU, anti-Israeli? I would not.
As to Akbar, I am not a great fan of CEU, but I wouldn’t judge an institution by one member.

dvhr
Guest

hetek.hu, szombat.org, the FB group CEU Students for Justice in Palestine

Webber
Guest

I am certain that you could find a similar group of Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, or Harvard students. Would you call those universities “anti-Israeli?” Surely not.
I think we should be very careful with that term. If used, it should be used correctly, specifically, and preferably personally/individually. If you use it, or any other similar term, to indiscriminately brand an entire group or institution, you risk alienating disinterested or even positive people, some of whom otherwise never thought of the issue, or really couldn’t care less (perhaps because they are concerned with their own countries, or with some other part of the world – nothing wrong with that!).
Let’s, at least, not make enemies out of neutrals.
P.S. What is this blog about, anyway??? Perhaps not this issue.

Guest

Take this ranking as an example:
http://cwur.org/2015/
The best Hungarian uni is ELTE at no 458 …

Six Hungarian unis are among the best 900:
http://cwur.org/2015/hungary.html
Not really impressive – probably was much better under the Austrians …

OT:
I’m almost proud that our Swab universities are in the region 150 to 200 …

István
Guest
Well at least the University of Szeged beat the University of North Dakota (UND) where I went to undergraduate school at and joined the reserved officers training corp. But looking at these lists it does give one pause for thought, because each University on the list probably has its area of strength. For example UND has a strong aeronautical sciences department, maybe the best in the USA and a very strong College of Mining. U Cal Davis is one world’s top Argricultural Scineces Universities, but it is relatively low on the overall list. The highest ranking Universtities on these lists that I am familiar with have multiple areas of strength and that is a costly undertaking. Hungary does not have the economic resources to have such well funded Universities unless it is a national priority, which is unlikely under PM Orban. Moreover, for the very brightest young Hungarians the access to foreign Universities is now more possible since the end of communism. For Hungarians this is a bitter pill because higher education roots back to more than 600 years of academic excellence, the first university was founded in Pécs, in 1367 as most of us know. But now to be… Read more »
figyusz
Guest

University of Szeged’s ranking is based on one fact alone, that Albert Szent-Gyorgyi received his Nobel prize for the work he did at Szeged. That fact has such a great weight in the rankings that Szeged will continue to get into the first 500 (!) for the next few years, which really doesn’t say much to be honest.

An
Guest

While I agree that Hungarian universities lag behind, I do think that the popularly quoted rankings of universities are pretty meaningless.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/sep/21/university-world-rankings

http://www.forbes.com/sites/akelly/2014/09/09/new-college-rankings-remind-us-of-whats-wrong-with-american-higher-education/

What makes me mad though is that the current administration is setting back Hungarian higher education with another 30 years.

An
Guest

While I agree that Hungarian universities lag behind, I think the popular rankings are pretty meaningless.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/sep/21/university-world-rankings

http://www.forbes.com/sites/akelly/2014/09/09/new-college-rankings-remind-us-of-whats-wrong-with-american-higher-education/

The tragedy is that the current administration is setting back Hungarian higher ed with another 30 years.

Guest

Re: “This will be a great tradegy for the incrediable highly qualified Hungarian and other Central European students who gain admission to some of the top graduate schools”

Indeed. And regarding community colleges. Something to be said for them for enterprising and studious students because they could lead to better educational opportunities here.

Case in point was my cousin who could not afford to go to one of her wanted schools the University of Virginia. But two years at a local community college with great grades got her in and then it was on to Purdue and the University of California at Berkeley for master and doctorate degrees. Disappointed that the current educational environment for excellent Hungarian students may change.

An
Guest
An
Guest
Uli Kunkel
Guest

Why Jobbik is so popular?

For readers of Hungarian, the attached magazine was distributed at EFFOT, an annual festival for college kids who are a little less well off than the kids at Volt or Balaton Sound festivals (those are for Fidesz voter kids, even the daughters of Orban and Szajer did internships at the firm managing those so called premium festivals).

http://prolidepp.tumblr.com/post/124742859037/sajnoseper-prolipropilen-zeroz3ro-te-vagy

Guest

Thanks a lot, Uli!

This (Hungarian ?) site has many interesting, disturbing and funny (even some very sexy …) pictures which Fideszniks and Jobbiks will probably not enjoy.
http://prolidepp.tumblr.com/

An
Guest

Off topic but it is worth a read… this prof nails it when it comes to the Orban regime.

“I am not claiming that Orbán is a radical right politician. Given his many ideological swings, who knows? What I am saying is that it doesn’t matter anymore. Whether he is inspired by a genuine ideology, or has adopted an opportunistic strategy in order to fend off the Jobbik challenge, Orbán has transformed Fidesz into a party that seems increasingly driven by a combination of nativism, authoritarianism and populism – hallmarks of radical right ideology.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/30/viktor-orban-fidesz-hungary-prime-minister-europe-neo-nazi?CMP=share_btn_fb

I hope this comment will show up; earlier I was unable to post anything.

Guest

Re: “The Orbán government is much more concerned with fences along the Serbian-Hungarian border, football stadiums, and lobbyists in the United States and in Germany than it is with higher education. In fact, Orbán thinks there are too many university students, and his government is making sure that there will be even fewer in the future”

Looks like a prescription for disaster. Do they actually know what they may be doing to the future of the country? I cannot see how the combination of loyalty oaths and an apparent lack of free thought where students have to think a certain way in order to get a degree helps to create a viable Hungary where it can tackle the political and social complications of the 21st century.

I’d think if this goes on the country will be crippled at the highest levels since it would appear ‘automatons’ would be the ones likely in power. Tow the line and your in. It is sad to see such servile work ostensibly done to develop supposed intellectual ‘excellence’ in the country. This is a very bad horse to run.

Guest

Re: “…Europe for Europeans…Hungary for Hungarians”

You know Orban’s comments are probably along the lines the Roman Emperors of the 4th century and 5th centuries said to themselves as they continually had to watch and defend the frontier provinces as the ‘barbarians’ from the Eastern regions flooded in relentlessly. But eventually in 410 Alaric got to Rome and made a name for himself to start the ‘re-fashioning’ of the Roman Empire especially as to its demography. For the province of Pannonia indeed got some new denizens at the time.

Right now Orban is following the initial Roman foreign policy script of dealing with the invaders where the focus was on simply blocking them from entering and thus keeping them out of the ‘passes and plains’.

But if history is a guide he may not be so lucky to keep them from entering and will have to pay more and more attention to events outside of the country since what happens outside will have effects inside. The pressures will certainly be there in Europe for the foreseeable future. I don’t believe Hungary will escape easily. Orban’s comment just appears very flippant. He should read Ammianus at night to get some perspective…;-)…

tappanch
Guest

Orban intends to build his fence with near slave labor !

Unemployed people on Medicaid (74 euro a month GROSS) are drafted in to the Szeged government office. They are given the choice: either they help build the fence for 165 euro a month GROSS, or they lose their Medicaid.

http://www.delmagyar.hu/szeged_hirek/behivot_kaptak_a_kerites_epitesere_a_munkanelkuliek/2439909/

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