Viktor Orbán’s next target: Central European University in Budapest

One after the other, independent publications have been taken over by Fidesz loyalists. I covered the sad fate of Népszabadság and spent a considerable amount of time on the acquisition of regional papers, which are valuable additions to the growing network of the government propaganda machine.

One takeover I didn’t cover was the purchase of Figyelő (Observer), a highly respected financial weekly established 60 years ago. The new owner is Mária Schmidt, court historian of Viktor Orbán and director of the historically misleading House of Terror. Of course, Mária Schmidt is well known to the readers of Hungarian Spectrum, but perhaps I didn’t report sufficiently on her wealth. She inherited a fortune when, in 2006, her husband died suddenly at the age of 53.

Figyelő had been ailing financially for over a year when Schmidt decided to “save” the paper in December 2016. She promised not to intervene in the day-to-day running of the paper or to interfere with its content. A month later, however, she appointed three prominent Fidesz ideologues to head the editorial board. Several journalists promptly resigned. That was at the end of January.

A few days later the new issue of Figyelő appeared with an article titled “Can the Soros-School stay?” Unfortunately, the article is not available online, but from the summaries by other publications we can reconstruct the gist of the story. According to Figyelő, in the summer of 2016 Viktor Orbán and George Soros had a discussion about Soros’s pride and joy, Central European University (CEU), which he established in Budapest. At that meeting the strong man of Hungary apparently reassured Soros that “he will not touch” CEU. But, continued Figyelő, “since last summer the international situation, with the election of Donald Trump as president, [has changed]. The Hungarian government might think that it can risk attacks against the university that it wouldn’t have tried earlier.” Figyelő claimed to know that one of Orbán’s ministers talked about CEU “as the main target in 2017.” He indicated that what they would really like is the departure of the whole institution from Budapest. The article was also full of untrue assertions about CEU, its students, and its faculty.

Michael Ignatieff, the new president of CEU, responded with a dignified open letter addressed to the “editor-in-chief” of Figyelő. He pointed out the benefits CEU has brought to Hungary in the last 25 years and the excellent relationships the university has with other academic institutions in Hungary and abroad. At the end of the letter he noted that the university is proud of George Soros, a Hungarian patriot, but the administration of the university is entirely free from outside pressure.

Anyone familiar with Mária Schmidt’s modus operandi should have known that President Ignatieff would get an answer. And that it would not be dignified as Ignatieff’s was. Instead, it would be a base attack on him, the university, and anything that has anything to do with liberalism.

Indeed, her response is a disgusting piece of prose, at the center of which is an attack on the speech Ignatieff gave at the launch of a project called Re-thinking Open Society. (A summary of the speech is available online.) In her rambling article, titled “An open society and a liberal revolution,” Schmidt talks about foundations financed by Soros as “military outposts of the U.S. State Department” and Ignatieff as “the Canadian liberal” whose “field of operation happens to be” in Hungary at the moment. He is “a passionate liberal.” That for Schmidt is the greatest sin anyone can commit.

Ignatieff is further accused of being soft on communism, which she says is especially disgraceful from someone whose ancestors were refugees from the Red Terror, “a fact that he doesn’t consider especially important.” (Ignatieff’s paternal grandfather was Count Pavel Ignatieff, the Russian minister of education during World War I, and his great-grandfather was Count Nikolay Ignatieff, a Russian statesman and diplomat.) How do we know that Ignatieff, who gives lectures on the subject, doesn’t know the first thing about the horrors of communism? Because “he always talks about communism in connection with Nazism and he always compares Hitler to Stalin.” Until now, Hungarian anti-Communists accused liberals of making excuses for communism and focusing only on Nazism, but if we can take Schmidt seriously they now consider communism even worse than Nazism and the horrors it brought to the world.

Ignatieff mentioned Václav Havel in his speech, who is not exactly Schmidt’s favorite. “Havel is significant for Ignatieff and the other liberals only because he published several articles in their most important publication, the New York Review of Books.” So much for Václav Havel.

Soros himself is accused of collaborating with the communists in the late 1980s and preferring left-wingers and liberals when it came to his grants. (Schmidt herself was a beneficiary of Soros’s generosity.) To quote her precisely: “Soros in Hungary as well as in other countries became the keeper of washed-out komcsik and libik. He is the embodiment of everything that deserves our contempt. Today Soros’s name means liberal and liberal means SZDSZ and SZDSZ means everything that is loathsome, unpatriotic, arrogant, and unacceptable.”

I guess these few lines will give the readers of Hungarian Spectrum a sense of Mária Schmidt’s latest masterpiece. I could go on and on about her defense of populism, Brexit, and Donald Trump, but that would take us too far from our topic: the fate of Central European University. The essence of the lengthy article comes at the very end: “CEU is George Soros’s outpost in Europe.” The implied verdict: Soros’s university has to go.

Schmidt’s attack opened a floodgate. A few days after her article appeared, Magyar Idők reported that CEU is letting 17 faculty members go because the university’s business school will merge with the department of economics. The pro-government mouthpiece claimed that all 17 professors were Hungarians and that they were extremely popular with the students. Magyar Idők also stated that the salaries of foreign faculty members are double those of Hungarians at CEU. A day later another article was published in the same paper, titled “They are cooking something in Soros’s witch’s kitchen.” The same unfounded and unverified accusation that Hungarian faculty members were fired solely because they were Hungarians was repeated. In vain did CEU try to explain that the faculty members of the Business School were not all Hungarians and that there are not different pay scales for foreign and native faculty members. Magyar Idők was not giving up. Today a new article was published in which they try to discredit CEU’s press release that pointed out the paper’s false statements. Magyar Idők claimed that CEU didn’t satisfactorily deny that only Hungarians were fired.

That’s where we are at the moment. What happens to CEU may depend, at least in part, on how successful Donald Trump is at implementing his plans at home and abroad. If he moves American democracy toward an illiberal state and if his followers keep bashing Soros, most likely Viktor Orbán will feel free to banish CEU from Hungary. But if he fails because of internal opposition and foreign resistance, perhaps these attacks will subside. Let’s hope so.

February 11, 2017
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Guest
I predicted at least five years ago that precisely this would eventuate, and I am surprised that CEU has managed to last in Orban’s Hungary for as long as it has. If I was Soros and Ignatieff, I would make urgent arrangements for the orderly transfer of CEU to Vienna before the Hungarian elections in 2018. Better to leave in good time with dignity intact than getting peremptorily kicked out. My take on the situation in Hungary is that Orban is set to dominate Hungarian political life for the foreseeable future and that the poison of Maria Schmidt thoroughly permeates the grassroots of Hungarian polity. Under these circumstances there is no way that the CEU can last there. Anyway, a Hungary of Orban and Schmidt does not actually deserve a CEU. Vienna is a mere 214km (133 miles) by air from Budapest, and 243km by road, so what is the big deal? If push comes to shove, Hungarian staff could either be relocated to Vienna or even commute between the two cities once or twice a week, with special accommodation arrangements for them whilst in Vienna. The costs of this would be petty cash for Soros, and these costs would… Read more »
Guest

The suggestion of Vienna as relocation destination for the CEU does of course presume that Austria is not going to follow Hungary into the morass of mindless nationalism, a presumption may in fact be quite wrong. In that case, however, all bets are off about the CEU’s future in the region.

Guest

Correction: “(…) a presumption THAT may in fact be quite wrong.”

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Please, I am getting really tired of this morbid pessimism. Austria just had a Presidential election and the populist candidate lost. Trump has had 6 judges rule against him and his ban is no longer in effect.

petofi
Guest

If CEU goes, imagine all the unemployed Hungarians!
Imagine all the empty buildings and ruined shops in the heart of the city!
Yes, Orbans plan to destroy Budapest will be well on the way…

Guest
I have just been speaking on Skype to a senior Hungarian academic about the CEU. The CEU is a relatively tiny institution with a very restricted academic scope. The language of tuition is English. Its purpose is to foster open society in the region. The majority of its students and staff seem non-Hungarian. My informant tells me that in academic and intellectual circles in Budapest, both on the political left and right, the CEU is regarded as a rather snobbish establishment that seems to float somewhere up in the air above everyone else, seemingly completely disconnected from academic discourse in Hungary, notwithstanding some prominent research scholars on staff, such as Andras Kovacs or Maria M. Kovacs. Furthermore, according to my informant, it would seem easier to find a needle in a haystack in Hungary than a CEU graduate, whether at a bachelor, masters or doctoral level, and the impact of the CEU and its graduates on fostering open society in Hungary has so far been infinitesimally small, if that. Unfortunately, it would seem that over the years the CEU has developed into an academic ivory tower with little or no influence or relevance in the region which it is supposed… Read more »
Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Sounds like jealousy and Hungarian xenophobia to me. I would ask your correspondent some pretty nasty questions about the low international status of Hungarian universities in general.

CEU grad
Guest

I did find it concerning that CEU had so little interaction and collaboration with other universities, at least in my department – but I do suspect the salary differentials are an issue (one of my professors was dating a Hungarian professor at another university, and commented on this), and some of my professors (both Hungarian and otherwise) were well-connected outside of academia. Most of the PhD students in my department were Hungarian, and like any other organization, when hiring CEU has to demonstrate that they have a reason to hire a foreigner, particularly a non-EU citizen.

I did run into many CEU graduates in Budapest during my time there, and the local alumni chapter is the largest. If people don’t run into them often, it’s because CEU is a small post-grad only institution, and outside of certain professional contexts, it’s not that common to run into people with postgraduate degrees. I also found that opinion of CEU (good university vs evil Soros plot) was pretty much a political litmus test. I did not encounter any politically left people with a poor opinion of CEU – although I think the snobbery charge isn’t unfounded.

webber
Guest

Frankly, why should CEU collaborate with chronically underfunded third-rate Hungarian universities? What benefit would accrue to CEU? If they held a joint conference, CEU would have to foot the bill. Hungarian universities can’t afford a damned thing.
Pappp is right about Hungarian university salaries, as opposed to CEU salaries (see his comment above). An Assistant Prof. in a Hungarian state university will make about 264,000 forints/ month before tax. That’s a tiny bit over 900 dollars/month, before taxes and health-ins. deductions, which in total will take about half that wage. Why would any CEU graduate want to accept that? A cashier at Lidl can make more than that.
A Full Professor – the top of the profession – will make 528,000 forints before tax (link to salaries below). What a perspective for a young academic! Some day he might hope to make a pre-tax wage of about 1,800 dollars per month. After tax, it’s so little it’s pathetic – in a country with a 27% sales tax.
Those are the reasons why so many Hungarians would like to work or study at CEU.

webber
Guest
pappp
Guest
Orban will leave earlier than it is assumed. It is extremely defeatist (and lacking any imagination) to conclude that no change is possible, Orban won, end of story. Orban’s support is now about 25% (or probably less) of the population. This mustn’t be underestimated, especially in Western Hungary and Bács and Hajdú-Bihar but when a tyrant loses its popularity there is no telling what can happen. Putin or Erdogan and other tyrants stay on for long because they are genuinely popular and presided over long, uninterrupted growths of wealth (GDP). This never happened in Hungary, Orban has no achievements. While Orban’s popularity will likely increase because he will spend on votes (and as we get closer to elections it is usual for the incumbent to gain popularity) Orban is hated all over Hungary by about 75% of the people. With a good, smart campaign, this could be improved upon by the opposition (despite the controlled media). This game is not over and not because there is democracy in which there is a real contest (Hungary is not a democracy), but in any autocracy when the autocrat loses its popularity unpredictable things happen. The opposition must consciously prepare to be the… Read more »
Guest

The wishful thinking department? Nonetheless, I hope against hope you are right. Anyway, the best of good luck with this both to you and to the liberal democratic opposition in Hungary.

webber
Guest

Pappp is right. That is not wishful thinking, that is the reality. The majority of people now actively hate Fidesz.
I am a bit pessimistic about how soon Fidesz will fall, because dictators can last a long, long time. I would give Fidesz until after the 2018 elections. No matter how open the dictatorship gets, I think they’ll have ten years in power. When EU funding starts to slow, things will get very, very rough. How much and how openly they will manipulate the election results in 2018 will be interesting, in a morbid, sickening sort of way.

webber
Guest

P.S. I don’t have a crystal ball. For all I know, Fidesz could last twenty years! But I’m hoping they will fall sooner than that.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Long term populist government always self destruct. Usually it stems from their economic policies. Hungary’s population will continue to shrink, its productivity growth will continue to be weak, oil prices are now sharply rising, and its education system is producing low grade human capital.

Guest

I also think that in the event that Orban lost in 2018, he would make absolutely sure that Hungary would rapidly become ungovernable by the coalition that succeeded Fidesz. The country would then sink into utter political and social chaos, which would just about guarantee Orban’s return to power on a very short order. So best be careful about what you wish for.

pappp
Guest

I agree that Orban would not leave easily.

But the thing is once the tyrant is shown to be a political loser who now can be openly hated and spat on, there would be a huge pressure on him to leave.

Hated, corrupt tyrants who have been looting a country for years often end up like Colonel Gaddafi or Ceauscescu.

I think the Hungarian deep state would realize that power no longer resides with Orban and would allow the consolidation of a new power. It might not switch immediately sides (and it would never for a long-term support a leftist power structure for the deep state is inherently nationalistic and right-wing) because it would need time to be convinced that the new power is indeed stable enough, but at one point it would simply let Orban go. Obviously consolidation and winding up of Orban’s power structure would not be an easy task.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

And how would the government kick them out?

webber
Guest

First, the government can withdraw CEU’s accreditation (as I describe below), and thereby withdraw all funding for CEU’s Hungarian students.
If that isn’t a clear enough message, the government could apply the strategy it used against the Norwegian NGOs – start a campaign in the press alleging massive embezzlement by people at CEU, then send in the police to detain those people based on that press campaign. They could declare Ignatieff persona-non-grata and expel him from Hungary tomorrow, if they wanted to (states do have that right). The police could also seize computers, shut down the university’s server (for the duration of the investigation), seize property for further investigation, etc.
Of course, CEU would be found innocent by the courts in the end, but that could take years. Years of harassment.
I can think of lots of other things the Hungarian government could do to drive CEU out, but don’t want to give anybody ideas. Those I’ve outlined above are just tactics they’ve already employed elsewhere.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

The government cannot withdraw American or probably even Hungarian accreditation.

webber
Guest

It can withdraw Hungarian accreditation. Not American, but Hungarian.
They called the act of Parliament that gave CEU permanent Hungarian accreditation “Lex CEU.” What Parliament gives, Parliament can revoke.
And try to convince me that the Hungarian Accreditation Committee would give CEU accreditation – because despite the university’s stellar reputation (best in Hungary), I don’t think it would. HAC is stacked with Fideszniks.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

I don’t think they have the balls to do it. You need political cover. They do not have it. They need a plausible story and they do not have it.

pappp
Guest

How much time have you spent in Hungary Roderick? Because I don’t think you really get the Hungarian situation. In Hungary Orban does whatever the f**k he wants to do.

if Orban received the backchannel confirmation that the Trump administration just doesn’t care about Soros and his investments then Orban will immediately arrange the shutting down of CEU.

Orban will allow a year or two as a transitional period until CEU can properly move to Germany (not Austria) for you see he a benevolent leader and not a dictator. But that’s about it.

Webber is right. Orban can arrange in two days to have the act on CEU (act LXI of 2004) amended or repealed. Then CEU can go and complain to Hitler as they say it in Hungary (mehetsz panaszkodni Hitlerhez).

Moreover, Orban can harass CEU for a year or two and then CEU might itself decide to move. There are many ways to achieve the goal which is to achieve a presentable victory over “the Jews and Liberals”.

I hope CEU will have the balls because the next years will not be easy.

CEU grad
Guest

Petty cash for Soros, maybe. Not petty cash for the students – Vienna is a much more expensive place to live than Budapest.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Let’s keep perspective. Hungary and Budapest are dirt poor. Vienna is quite reasonable by the standards of people from developed countries. In fact, Vienna is damn cheap compared to a large number of Western European cities.

Other CEU grad
Guest

Lol at the comment about “the standards of people from developed countries”, what a horrible elitist thing to say.

Most people on my course were from Eastern European or Central Asian countries and relied on their scholarships to pay living costs. I know the university or at least specific departments (like Legal Studies) are trying hard to attract students from Africa right now. Unlike other universities, CEU’s goal is not just to give out diplomas, they have a clear mission to encourage human rights and democracy worldwide and you can’t do that by only educating wealthy Americans.

webber
Guest

Could be part of a plan to get rid of CEU, or it could just be the latest focus of the constant hate-campaign. Schmidt is often the instigator of these campaigns. They havetargeted, among many others Agnes Heller and philosophy in general, and Peter Gyorgy and media studies in general. Then there was the campaign against “Norwegian” NGOs. The regime just seems to feel a need to hate, and to focus the public’s hatred on a target.

The latest hate campaign was against Heineken (the Csiki beer affair), and it was just too ridiculous for words.

So, now they have found a new, more serious target – CEU.

Philosophy, Media Studies, Heller and Gyorgy are all doing fine now. CEU might weather the storm too.

Or, as Eva suggests, this might be the start of a more serious attempt to throw CEU out of Hungary.

pappp
Guest
I would never underestimate Orban in this respect. He uses the secret services for any and all things. He basically – like Putin – only trusts made members of the services. As a result, the Hungarian secret services have been “investigating” CEU and Soros for years – using Russian and Israeli blueprints and making detailed plans about it. That said, I wouldn’t overvalue the relevance of such reports and plans. Nevertheless I think the goal is clearly to destroy CEU. Once and for all. Orban made his mind up and he wants to win, he wants his adversaries to suffer. For two reasons: Orban wants to deal a mortal blow to “liberals”, Orban and Schmidt want the liberals scream as they love tormenting liberals. This is their best possible fun and enjoyment. Secondly, Orban thinks it’s a great story that can get average Hungarians occupied. After all, Orban controls the media. Mind you, Index.hu is next in line – in the next month or so it will have a new owner, another Strohmann of course. Ordering the closing down of Hungary’s most successful university which pumps about a net 10bn forints a year into the economy and keeps Hungarian scholars… Read more »
webber
Guest

You might be right, but I have a feeling that Orban and crew actually just want to have some of their people appointed to teaching positions at CEU, to head some departments (Horkay-Hörcher Ferenc?), etc. Of course they would most like to have their man or woman sitting in the Rector’s office (George/György Schöpflin, MEP?). I guess Fidesz would even allow Soros to veto candidates until Fidesz finally finds some international a..-licker Soros can live with (Roger Scruton?)
And I suppose Fidesz wants a say in the admission of students. So, if Orban gets some of his demands, I guess the campaign against CEU will end.

After all, Orban got to appoint the rectors of all other Hungarian universities. Now it’s CEU’s turn….

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

No, Orbán is not going to select the rector of a private university.

webber
Guest

I said he might want to. I didn’t say he would. But that might be the price he asks for letting up on the harassment. That would be in keeping with his behavior to date.

wrfree
Guest

With all the discussion I can see VO doesn’t give a damn about intellectual life in Magyarorszag unless it follows his bent whatever it is. I just wonder how many books the fellow has read if any. His intellectual ‘touch’ sure shrivels everything up. It seems he’s lost the definition of what exactly a ‘university’ is supposed to be.

petofi
Guest

“Hate” empowers the weak-minded and the downtrodden. For one thing, no matter how low you feel, you’re automatically superior to the ones who are hated…

Jon Van Til
Guest

CEU may have a problem here with its academic reorganization of business and economics. As I learned in 35 years of teaching and administering at Rutgers, part-time faculty are often removed by such processes, on the administrative hope that full-time faculty members will then be required to teach more students and appear more often in the classroom. It’s an old academic story, but part-timers are both cheaper per student hour and quite often more able in relating to students and connecting them to “real world” experience. If it is the case, as seems likely, that CEU’s part-timers are largely Hungarian, then it’s only a further good reason for its administrators to rethink their proposed reorganization plans.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Whether they are mostly Hungarian or not is irrelevant. Politics should not influence staff decisions. And a school’s reputation is its most important asset.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Part times don’t advance their field. A top university has to be competitive in research.

pappp
Guest
I hope Ignatieff is not as hapless as he was as a politician and will prepare CEU to resist Orban. There is no other way because Orban will attack (well, he is attacking) CEU head on. Orban only respects toughness and power. CEU has a chance of remaining in Hungary but only if it resists using any and all means against the tyrant. I hope CEU will decide to do so, after all a Central European University must intimately understand that in the CEE things are tougher, they are not as they are in Germany or Switzerland. To a certain extent this is exactly why Soros set up a CEU and not another Western European University. Giving up on Hungary just because CEU encounters a vicious, corrupt tyrant would also be a huge disappointment and ignoring its own mission statement. But make no mistake the művelet (the operation) already started. CEU is on the spot. And while CEU may decide to downplay the engagement it will have to prepare — outside Hungary because I guess the entire CEU is under surveillance so whatever CEU prepares internally in Hungary Orban and Habony and Lazar will know about it in a day.… Read more »
Former Student
Guest

I saw Ignatieff speak when I was a student at CEU a couple of years ago and came away very impressed. He was certainly a lousy politician but he appears to have an excellent mind and I believe he will fight to keep the school in the country. I seriously doubt the University will move voluntarily while Soros is alive and I certainly hope they won’t consider it in the future. This may just be wishful thinking though; If the school loses accreditation in Hungary there isn’t much they can do.

webber
Guest

Ignatieff won an election or two, so he couldn’t have been such a lousy politician. At least he was better than his opponents.

Bastiat2
Guest

Just a question. Do you use the word “liberal” meaning close to socialist as in the US today or as what meant Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek ,which is vastly different?

pappp
Guest

This is a totally irrelevant question in Hungary. The right-wing, Fidesz-sponsored media treats any kind of ‘ism’ (communism, liberalism, capitalism etc.) as a Jewish-inspired concoction that is alien to the true Hungarian soul. They are hated alike and treated as one and the same.

Thus “liberal” in Hungary could cover basically anybody who is in any way pro-Western, secular, rationalist.

If used by the right-wing “liberal” wants to evoke (subconsciously or not) the figure of “the Jew”, the repulsive, scheming, speculating creature we got to know from der Stürmer.

In addition there are no Hayekians in Hungary to speak of so nobody who uses the word liberal refers to Hayekians.

webber
Guest

Conservatism? For a time, anyway, Fidesz tried to claim that term as its own.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

I think it means an open, pluralistic society. It does not tell us much about the degree of government involvement in the economy.

Guest

@Bastiat2

The meaning of the word “liberal”

In order to avoid confusion, I think it is best to refer to the American usage of “liberal” as “left liberal.” In turn, a conservative or center right liberal is best referred to as a classical liberal. In Canada, for instance, the Liberal Party is a left liberal formation that espouses a mild form of quasi-socialist ideology, whilst in Australia, the Liberal Party is a center right one espousing a mild form of classical liberalism. Then there are the libertarians of course, who basically espouse a turbo-charged classical liberalism generally taken to unimplementable extremes.

Melanie Zuben
Guest

How can you recognize a true-blue “Liberal”?

Apart from the “anything goes” philosophy, most believe that the “Ten Commandments” are destructive for the psychological development of the young, therefore religious studies should be banned at schools and sex education should replace Bible studies . . . and I could go on and on.

webber
Guest

You seem a bit muddled on this. The American Founding Fathers of the late 18th century believed that state and church should be separated, and because of this principle religious studies are not and never have been provided in American state schools.
Americans are, nevertheless, among the most religious people in the developed world, in both church attendance and confessions of faith.
The separation of state and faith seems to have strengthened faith.

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Webber,
Am I “muddled”? I’m from Australia, remember? 🙂 My post was supposed to be funny . . . I’m sorry you didn’t get it.

Istvan
Guest

I am seeing more use of the term “progressive” to define a left liberal among the democrats now. There are only handfuls of truly conservative democrats remaining in Congress. For example democrats that have high voting ratings from conservative think thanks. The bulk of US democrats are liberals on social polices, with differing poisitions on defense policy.

aida
Guest

Can someone help with information, please. Maybe OV wants to close the CEU or move it abroad. What is the status of the CEU? If, as I assume it is a privately owned university it is not funded by the State. It’s premises are rented or owned by the CEU. Does it require a licence which presumably it now has? If so can the licence be revoked? If so by what means and on what grounds? It is difficult to see that teaching conventional academic subjects at university level can fall foul of the regulator on the ground that the funder promotes liberal values or that he is not patriotic or that he is a Jew or that he collaborated with the Communist regime. Collaboration is a common sin shared by many politicians including the PM.

webber
Guest
CEU is a private university, which owns the buildings it occupies. It grants only post-graduate degrees (MA, MSc, PhD). It is largely self-funded, though when it was finally accredited in Hungary, it gained the ability to apply for EU higher-education funding, and to provide Hungarian students studying at CEU with Hungarian state stipends. So, there is a significant amount of Hungarian and EU money in CEU now. Still, the University could survive without any external funding because of the funds given to it by G. Soros. As to All universities need accreditation. Unlike Hungarian state universities, CEU does not get accreditation from the Hungarian Accreditation Committee (HAC – MAB), but got for in eternity from Parliament under the socialist government. This was after some foreign accrediting bodies threatened to withdraw CEU’s accreditation (which they had hitherto provided) because of anomalies in the university’s operation. In my view, CEU’s avoidance of HAC, and its accreditation through Parliament was shameful (Parliament also gave accreditation to Budapest’s German university, Andrassy Universität). Normally Hungarian universities, with accreditation through HAC, must have their programs reviewed regularly by HAC to have accreditation renewed. This is proper practice in the US and UK too, through accreditation boards… Read more »
Roderick S. Beck
Guest

I doubt Soros has made any such compromises. And there must EU level accreditation. The Hungarian National Veterinary school was threatened with loss of accreditation a long time ago and that threat from an international accreditation body.

webber
Guest

How do you think Soros was able to operate his foundation in Communist Hungary? He himself mentions in one of his memoirs that the Party insisted on naming people to certain positions, and that he accepted this as the price to be paid. He also said that some of these people turned out to be excellent.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Irrelevant. The university has accreditation from multiple bodies.

webber
Guest

How irrelevant?? It was direct response to your remark.

Set aside accreditation (I agree, the govt. can’t do a thing about American accreditation), and think about the things the government could do to CEU. Think of what government has already done to the “Norwegian” foundations.

webber
Guest

Also, if CEU no longer has Hungarian accreditation, it no longer counts as a European university (EU rules), and no longer can apply for EU funding. It also cannot take the funding that comes automatically for Hungarian students admitted to the school.
Yes, CEU can survive without this funding. But why would it stay in Hungary?
What benefit, then, would CEU have out of staying in Hungary?
I am certain it can get European accreditation pretty quickly from the other EU state to which it moves (whichever that is). Austria, perhaps?

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

The Norwegian foundations are still here and still independent.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

What you are claiming appears to be refuted here. https://www.ceu.edu/administration/accreditation

webber
Guest

Then I am behind the times, and CEU has corrected the anomalies! That is good news. That New York board and a British organization which also provided certain programs accreditation made some heavy criticism some years ago, precisely when CEU got Hungarian accreditation from Parliament.

I maintain that it was shameful, but am very glad to see that CEU has international accreditation

historian
Guest
There are a great number of interesting and controversial issues in this discussion that would merit engagement, but let me restrict myself just to the correction of factual inaccuracies. CEU indeed obtained Hungarian accreditation by virtue of a “Lex CEU” which, however, in effect meant an amendment of the Hungarian higher education act with a clause that gave it exemption from certain, largely structural requirements which because of the university’s character (private, international, graduate-only etc.) it would be unable to meet. This was by virtue of its academic quality and achievements, in whose recognition the HAC was fully involved right from the very beginning: the law amendment created the POSSIBILITYof accreditation, but the accreditation itself was not “given by Parlkiament”. It was issued by the Hungarian Education Office, based on the recommendation of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee, which reviewed all the relevant academic programs during 2005-2006. A full, periodic institutional review by the HAC then took place, in due course, in 2011-2012, renewing CEU’s accreditation, and another one is imminent. Individual doctoral and masters’ programmes are also regularly reviewed not only by the US but also by the Hungarian accreditation authroities. There is absolutely no anomaly here. (An institution of… Read more »
webber
Guest

Interesting, and convincing, though I heard quite different stories from a fellow who was involved in a problem CEU had with a British accreditation institution. The act of Parliament is extraordinary. Your description of why it was necessary is also extraordinary. There are other private universities in Hungary which did not get such a waiver from Parliament.

historian
Guest

At the time, CEU and Andrássy were the only private universities (“private” is nominal in the case of Andrássy, as we know). All the other private higher education institutions were college level, which were not required to provide the full undergrad+grad spectrum in order to have accreditation. To be sure, the parliamentary solution was extraordinary, and thanks to the fact that Hungary had a left-liberal government at the time. But besides the legislative amendment it was also made waterproof academically. The British story could be a different one: CEU as a whole never sought accreditation in Britain, except for the running, for a while, of the Environmental Sciences and Policy program in association with Manchester. But this leads very far from the current soaring issue …

webber
Guest

Was the Gender Studies prog. not accredited in Britain, for a time? Or rather, was there not an attempt to get accreditation there? I’m fairly sure…

historian
Guest

Too distant past, have no recollection … in any case, from the very beginning the overall policy was US accreditation first, anything else on top of that.

webber
Guest

I have a clear recollection of that. I believe it had something to do with the Open University, and there were serious troubles. This was a year or two before Lex CEU was passed.
If you have “no recollection” of that, I’m seriously beginning to doubt other parts of your narrative.
Please save the propaganda. CEU is a great institution – Hungary’s finest – and needs no whitewashing of the less savory bits of its past.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

I agree and no one on this list has provided any idea of how CEU could be shut down.

webber
Guest

But I have.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

There is nothing the government can really do. CEU is not financed by the Hungarian government and its attacks only serve to increase its prestige. Its international high profile is also too high. Most of Hungary is inconsequential to the rest of the world, but CEU is well known and respected.

webber
Guest

To the contrary, there is plenty the government could do to drive CEU out of Hungary. I’ve described a thing or two above. If you use your imagination, you’ll think of more possibilities.
Don’t forget, the state prosecutor, and the police do exactly what the government wants them to do, regardless of the letter of the law.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

And I am not convinced. CEU does not get money from the state like NGOs. It is even owns the property it uses. Its accreditation is independent of the State.

The reason most Hungarian institutions collapsed was because they were inherently weak and financially dependent on the State. Hungary has a statist system where government spending equals 50% of GDP. And since few hands are clean in Hungary, prosecution is often legitimate, if one-sided.

And CEU has something that very few Hungarian institutions have – lots of friends outside Hungary.

webber
Guest

Roderick, you ALMOST understand this government. Have you heard of international businesses and NGOs being driven out of Russia?
The Hungarian state could drive CEU out of Hungary. The means it would use would not be legal, but legalistic. They could bring false charges, for instance, against people at CEU. They could

Do you really think CEU has such influential foreign friends now? I don’t. The Trump admin. is railing against Soros, too.

I can assure you that if someone in this government decided that he wanted your business, your personal business, he could drive you out of the country, and seize your assets here (he couldn’t get what you have abroad, of course). You have a certain amount of protection, because you can turn to the US Embassy with a complaint (I trust you didn’t get Hun. citizenship!). A certain amount of protection. But if this government really decided to get you out, they could, they would, and there is not much you or the Embassy or anyone else could do about it in the end. They would use very, very foul means.

Read this – it’s about what Hungary is becoming:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/25/-sp-bill-browder-kremlin-threatened-to-kill-me-vladimir-putin

And FYI, this is already reality for Hungarian citizens.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

The cost is too high. As I noted, the difference is between something purely domestic and something international. And I am not aware of any NGO being shut down by the government. I am certainly aware of the harassment, but most Hungarian NGOs persevere despite the harassment. Hungary engages in selective enforcement of the law. Since the bulk of the population has dirty hands in some respect (tax evasion, corrupt business dealings) the government usually can intimidate. But there was no prosecution of Gyurcsány or the NGO handling Norwegian state aid. EU rules and laws and the ability to appeal to the EU Court and as well as scrutiny by surrounding trading partners like Germany. I admit the margin for bad behavior is too high, but being in Europe does limit the damage they can do to prominent, well connected, and financially strong targets.

webber
Guest

I hope you’re right.

bimbi
Guest

It is not to be forgotten that the choice of “next target” in today’s Hungary comes from the troubled mind of the Great Leader. Apparently the goal is to put a stop to CEU’s activities in higher education on some kind of “idealistic” grounds. If CEU is closed in Budapest, Hungary as a whole loses – the society, the intellectual milieu, individual students – and this is a price worth paying for a politician and a government epitomized by meanness of mind and spirit, greed, selfishness, intellectual narrowness, and rejection of diversity. “Hungary is Strengthened” say the labels at the front of Orban’s speaking platform. Yes, strengthened in contempt for the people, strengthened in government thievery – oh yes, and strengthened in its position of 2nd to bottom of family wealth among Eurozone nations, the ongoing Orban economic disaster and strengthened by the personal armies of Orban, Matolcsy and Kover. Pathetic.

Rivarol
Guest

Fantsstic!

ProfRay
Guest
A lot of interesting comments. Having spent my life in academia, and seven years in Hungarian academia (still in it!) I would say that CEU, like any university, is vulnerable to “liberalist/elitist” attacks; it comes with the territory. Based on my experience, Hungarians are very proud of their academic institutions, even people who did not go to university often defend them (again, my experience). While I would not be surprised by “strong arm” tactics from the government, I think that, if CEU gets ahead of the game, they could keep things going. It may require more pro-active marketing; not to students, but to the same sector that Schmidt et al are sending their message. It may sound a little strange, but I’ve seen it before. Hungarian academics are extremely aware of academic prestige and while other institutions may be envious of CEU I think they would have enough sense not to try and throw it under the bus. If that happens, all of Hungarian academia loses. WRT invoking the will of Trump to give reason to do this, as I have said earlier, Trump will be an ally as long as it benefits Trump personally, not America. No one is… Read more »
webber
Guest

I don’t think OV cares a bit about academic prestige. If he did, he wouldn’t have withdrawn so much money from higher ed.

historian
Guest

“Hungarian academics are extremely aware of academic prestige and while other institutions may be envious of CEU I think they would have enough sense not to try and throw it under the bus. If that happens, all of Hungarian academia loses.” This is very acute indeed. Hungarian university academics are fallible human beings, but still tend to be also sensible professionals, especially at the level of top university administrators. I can confirm from experience that while they differ much in the level of sympathy they have for CEU, they are quite sober in their assessment of the difference between having it and not having it in the country. How far this would help CEU if and when it may come to a countdown, is of course another matter.

pappp
Guest

One things that luckily works for CEU (and of course for any sensible Hungarian citizen) is that Orban consumed much of his political capital.

Of course Orban will spend enormous, hitherto unheard of amounts on votes in 2H 2017 and early 2018, so his popularity will probably increase measurably, but when people have had enough of a tyrant’s ugly face then no amount of tax cuts will be able to make him likeable. People will accept the money (and any money is anyway always feels as completely due) but will still hate him.

In fact this entire war on”Soros and liberals” is now being prosecuted in order to gain popularity hoping that what worked in Russia and in Israel will work in Hungary too.

I’m certain that Orban could’ve done with CEU what he wanted back in 2010 and no academic would’ve uttered as much as a peep.

Now that it’s obvious even to fidesznik academics that Orban is consciously bleeding out Hungarian education at every level, expelling CEU is a more difficult proposition.

But I have no doubt that Orban will try. It’s a lot of fun for him, why miss this opportunity?

Guest

BBJ has news on the developments at CEU – though I don’t know whether this is good or bad:
http://bbj.hu/economy/ceu-to-launch-new-department-in-budapest_128683

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