The Hungarian government’s scholarship program for foreign students

I must admit that I didn’t realize until now the scope of the Stipendium Hungaricum (SH) program, which was conceived by the Orbán government in 2013. It has been an ambitious project from the very beginning. Péter Szijjártó, in those days still undersecretary in the prime minister’s office, announced that in the very first academic year of 2014/2015 Hungary was expecting 2,000 students from the Far East, the Arab countries, and the Western Balkans. By that time the Hungarian government had signed about 25 bilateral agreements specifying the number of students from each country who would receive full scholarships to study in Hungary. At the end, only 1,266 students arrived, the largest contingent coming from China (187), followed by Jordan (179), Tunisia (85), and Vietnam (77). Although the monthly stipend was meager (40,000 Ft/month), the total cost per student was pretty high. In 2013, the government was thinking in terms of 1.25 million forints per semester, which included tuition, health insurance, free dormitory space, and free textbooks. The ministry of human resources calculated that the total cost of having 900 HS students attend Hungarian institutions of higher education for three years would be 4.5 billion forints.

Today almost 3,000 foreign students are enrolled, and the government is planning a rapid expansion of the program. Already in 2013 Szijjártó said that the Orbán government was negotiating with Latin American countries. He indicated that negotiations were proceeding with Russia as well.

By December 2015 arrangements had been made with 45 countries. At that time Viktor Orbán announced that Hungary would like to extend the program to 80 countries. In the same speech he stressed that Hungary, in initiating this program, wants to show the world that it is a welcoming country, although he quickly added that the existence of the HS program doesn’t change the government’s attitude toward “illegal immigrants.” László Palkovics outlined the plan: by 2016 they want to have 3,000 students and by 2017, 5,000.

This ambitious scholarship program has been a success, unlike the “eastern and southern openings” the Orbán government initiated at about the same time. It is a well-known fact that trade relations with eastern and African countries haven’t grown, despite the government’s best efforts. But by now there are 3,000 foreign scholarship students in Pécs, Debrecen, Szeged, Győr, Budapest, and Miskolc. Universities are eager to accept these students because, first, they are fully funded by the ministry of human resources and, second, the number of Hungarian students in universities and colleges has decreased substantially. Demographic changes are partially responsible for these diminishing numbers, but I suspect that the government’s obvious unwillingness to have as high a number of Hungarian university students as were enrolled in 2010/11 is the real reason for the lower numbers. The Orbán government decreased the number of tuition-free places, and the tuition fees have become astronomically high. Moreover, according to the latest statistics, more than 7,000 Hungarian students are enrolled in western universities.

A certain “internationalization” of Hungarian education seems to be the goal. Universities actively recruit foreign students over and above those who are enrolled with the help of the HS program. In 2012/13 20,694 foreign students were in Hungary. By 2016 that number had grown to 28,628, which is about 10% of all university students. László Palkovics, undersecretary of education, wants to further increase the number of non-Hungarians in the system. By 2020 he would like to see this percentage rise to 15%.

Looking through the statistics that describe in some detail the growth in the number of students being educated at the expense of the Hungarian taxpayers, we see some notable trends. For instance, there has been a phenomenal growth in the number of students from Azerbaijan. While in the fall semester of 2015 only 39 Azeri students studied in Hungary, a year later their number was 202. The statistics for Morocco are equally impressive. Their numbers grew from 14 to 66 in one year. By now, the number of Chinese students is almost 300, and Jordan is not too far behind with 245. I noticed with some amazement that 93 Ecuadorians want to study in Hungary. Turkish-Hungarian relations are strong, as we know, and therefore it is not surprising that today 108 Turkish students are in Hungary as opposed to a year ago, when they numbered only 48.

Not everybody is happy about this large influx of students from so-called third world countries because they believe that the money spent on these foreigners should be spent on Hungarian students, whose numbers have decreased dramatically, from 302,000 in 2010 to 251,000 in 2017. The cost of the program today is much higher than was anticipated in 2013. Among other things, universities had to hire extra faculty members whose sole job is looking after the students who need mentoring and general assistance in adjusting to their new surroundings.

The newly arrived Stipendium Hungaricum students in Győr

The government claims that the opportunity for Hungarian students to attain a college or university education isn’t being curtailed by the HS students’ arrival in the system. This is true; the problem lies elsewhere. But the influx of HS students does put Hungarians at a disadvantage when it comes to dormitory accommodations since the foreign students are guaranteed either dormitory rooms or, if they prefer off-campus housing, a stipend of 40,000/month to cover the additional expense. Given the extremely high rent for apartments, almost all HS students opt for dormitory rooms. But there are not enough dormitories in Hungary in the first place, and the number of HS students does put an extra strain on the system. According to the latest figures, 43% more students apply for dormitory rooms than there are places. In some Budapest universities 15-50% of available dormitory places are occupied by HS students. The housing crunch is so severe at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics that, although the HS students are guaranteed dormitory space, they must live, believe it or not, in a Székesfehérvár dormitory 64 km and almost an hour in travel time away.

For most students the language of instruction is English (2,539). Only 378 study in Hungarian. But most of the students, at least at the István Széchenyi University in Győr, which received its first batch of 68 HS students from 25 different countries this year, take a course called “Magyar Nyelv and Kultúra.” According to Magyar Nemzet, however, these students have little interaction with Hungarian students because they are housed separately, which is a sure way of isolating them from the majority culture. The Hungarian government looks upon these students as future leaders of their native countries who will spread the good name of Hungary, but isolating them in clusters defeats the purpose. Even in the Rákosi regime, the government had the good sense to disperse Chinese students among Hungarians in dormitory rooms in order to improve their language skills and ease their adjustment to the Hungarian way of life. Considering the immense amount of money spent on the program, I really wonder how much Hungary will benefit as a result.

December 16, 2017
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bimbi
Guest

Those who live in Hungary see every day and thus know quite well how ‘welcoming’ the regime is to foreigners, so superficially at least the idea of reaching out to youth from other countries via fully-funded university programmes appears, by contrast, remarkably forward-looking and generous. However such a multi-billion forint programme must give rise to questions from in-country Hungarians. How many student-age Hungarians have gone abroad to find decent jobs or an education because none was available at home? Locals can justly feel aggrieved by the lack of funding as well as the rigid, doctrinaire methods applied to both school and university education by the regime, not to mention the partisan management of the economy, still floundering well behind Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They left because their country failed them. Here the economy is run for the Few not for the Many, ugye Pénztáros?
Ultimately one has to suspect that this is just another effort by the regime to present a shining image of Orbán-the-Statesman to a credulous world using tax-payer hand-outs, while at home he cannot even manage to run a party at a Csiki brewery.

Guest

At least the students will have nice memories of cheap Hungarian booze …
But the language problems will continue.

petofi
Guest

Forget booze: memories of cheap, easy, women…

Prof. Richard P. Ray
Guest

They don’t drink. And the language barrier cuts both ways

Member

“By 2016 that number had grown to 28,628, which is about 10% of all university students. ”

Much more than 10%, mainly Western European students (UK, Ireland, Norway, Germany) are studying at both Semmelweis and the Veterinary University. The regime’s motivation for attracting these students is clear- financial both in terms of a lot of money coming into the universities and more importantly into the pockets local Fidesz crime bosses in the 7th and 9th who are renting slum properties at extortionate prices to these comparatively rich foreigners.

But for the life of me, I don’t see what benefit the fascists are deriving from the SH program. No money to steal, not very much short-term political benefit to be got from attracting youngsters from like-minded (to Orban) dictatorships. Maybe somebody can enlighten me- the Fidesz gangsters don’t anything without making/stealing money from it, where is the profit in the SH system?

Furthermore we know how despicably racist the typical Fidesz voter is, their heads must be exploding at the sight of all these brown/black faces “polluting” the capital of the Motherland?

Guest

Another reason why Hungarian universities are especially interesting for German students:
Medical and Veterinary students face a rigorous “numerus clausus” at German universities- only those with the best school results are allowed to study. This happened to the son of our Vet who studied two years also for a Vet in Bp until he was accepted at a German university.
He enjoyed his stay in Bp very much – his parents (both vets) too liked their visits, they told me so. I had recommended the city to them – now do I get any commission? 🙂

Ron
Guest

D7Democrat:”Maybe somebody can enlighten me- the Fidesz gangsters don’t anything without making/stealing money from it, where is the profit in the SH system?”
Building up a long term network in that country of students origin. This means not necessary the student him or herself, but parents, family, friends, etc.
Collecting information on various topics, such as investment opportunities, grants and perhaps special treatment in these countries (via network=You owe me, I owe you).
Or on the positive side and escape haven for the future?

Observer
Guest

Ron
My take is that SH (the Chinese, Arabs, Russians will be deeply impressed by the Latin) is an ideological action within the failed “opening to the East” concept. Ttheoretically it has positive elements, but looking at which countries are involved, my bet is that this ( propaganda) will fail like most economic initiatives of this ignorant bandit.

petofi
Guest

The benefit is in long term planning: perhaps they will need to flee, and they’d like to be accepted in many different places…

Marty
Guest
Pécs, Szeged and Debrecen basically all live off the foreign students. WIthout them there would be no cafes, restaurants, taxi service etc. in these towns (and these are the most developed big towns, plus Győr of course). So it’s a program that was lobbied for by the local intellectuals (professors) who are, needless to say, Fidesz-leaning and properly channeled into the Fidesz power structure. In Hungary the rural intelligentsia is Fidesz-leaning and conservative. The number of Hungarian kids at universities is decreasing because Fidesz introduced the tuition fee, because of the demography and because Fidesz really makes it hard for Hungarians to study, on purpose of course. The local professors can’t do anything about this, this is clear Fidesz policy, less kids at universities, more in the factories. But they can ask for some help in attracting well-paying students who rent apartments etc. In return the siphoning off of money by local fidesznik players at universities is even smoother than would be normal. We talk about tens of billions worth of procurement at these universities per year – all going through Fidesznik middlemen. As to racism, yes, the universities attract kids from Africa and Middle East and then as politicians… Read more »
Member

“But the thing is most of these kids don’t follow Hungarian politics and have zero intention of staying in Hungary, they don’t care about racism”

Yeah, that is kind of my point. Fidesz don’t do long term and they certainly throw (our) money over long term prospects that probably won’t come to any kind of fruition.

They are also arrogant enough to believe they won’t ever need any kind of bolt hole.

There most be something we are missing.

Jon Van Til
Guest

Having taught some years in the Erasmus program, which brings university students from many other countries to Hungary, I’ve been struck by the limited opportunities for interaction these visitors have with Hungarian students. Language is of course one problem, but a goodly number of Hungarian students, even those planning to migrate, miss out on some important networking opportunities.

wrfree
Guest

I’m not too sure interacting with Magyar students is the point. Far from it. As noted in Prof’s comments, the government is looking down the road with visions of business contacts as a result of the outreach. On the other hand it wiukd be interesting to know how many of the foreign students stay in the country.

The fact that they are in Hungary shows they crave and want educational opportunity but I would imagine their astuteness would show them if they stay their first and last names would no doubt have them at the bottom of the CV/resume pile. Magyarorszag: it giveth but yet would take it away.

Marty
Guest

As a former Erasmus student, I can tell you this is the same everywhere. The Erasmus students network with each other, and not with the local people. This is the same even if you do an MBA at Stanford. Local students are much less open to new contacts, they are home, they have their own normal lives. By virtue of remaining at home they didn’t choose to go abroad which is for obviously those who are curious about the wider world.

Conversely, the foreign students in any program are all the same: they all chose to travel abroad, are freer (usually single), are more curious than their classmates at home. They have this in common with each other and so they tend to be with each other. I’m not saying it’s impossible to get to know locals but it sure takes extra efforts which fewer people want to exert, when meeting with other foreign students is made very easy by the school. Also in Erasmus in practice it’s often quite a lottery in which country you end up.

Pro
Guest

> This is the same even if you do an MBA at Stanford.

Nope.

Erasmus is not available for American universities.

If you join Stanford GSB, you have to be at least curious. For one, 40% of the class is international, so there’s no escape for domestic students.

Secondly, you have to look at American domestic students slightly differently. Yeah, America is just one country, but it is a big one. 95%+ of Stanford MBA students come from outside California (area of California is 5X that of Hungary, and population more than 4X of Hungary).

It certainly helps that everyone going to Stanford already speaks the local language and that “American culture” has been spread far and wide via the ubiquitous American media.

Marty
Guest

OK, should I mention that I also know how the MBA programat Stanford works? The Americans, even if they are curious, don’t really socialize or socialize less with the foreign students. They do, but much less so than those intl. students among themselves.

The point is not about the number of intl. students at Stanford or Yale but whether in any places the locals and the foreigners tend to socialize primarily with each other? I maintain that they do.

Marty
Guest

There’s no need to defend Stanford here, my comment isn’t about Stanford per se. Also, I guess if you pay 250,000 USD for a 2-year MBA you behave differently than undergrads in Europe whose tuition fee is smaller or non-existent.

I know the mixing is basically forced on students at better graduate schools.

But believe me for intl. students who go for a year (Erasmus is for max. one year, often just a semester and MBA is for max. 2 years), it’s much easier to mingle with other similarly situated foreign students. This is just the way it is.

Prof. Richard P. Ray
Guest

It’s a nice group of kids in the picture you show. I’ve met most of them and have interacted with many; helping with schoolwork etc. Additional compensation to teachers is small. Certainly from my perspective there seems to be little coordination or long-term planning involved. Scholarship programs (especially in technical fields) is often used to serve as a conduit for more and better student talent, as well as academic, research, and professional collaboration. The new students may also bring a much-needed broader perspective about learning and teaching.

Istvan
Guest
Really interesting Eva. Particularly the Vietnamese students are interesting to me, because we have had a number of these students come to the USA and I have met a few of them. There are now about 29,000 Vietnamese students studying at US institutions. Vietnam has the fastest growing percentage of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI) in the world, those having a net worth of at least US$30 million. The two students I have met are children of those oligarchs who are completely tied to the Vietnamese Communist Part bureaucracy. The party really determines who can become an oligarch in Vietnam, it is driven by loyalty to the VCP and if you break that loyalty not only can you lose you wealth, you can go to jail. Even the prominent musician Vo Minh Tri went to prison for a full four years sentence for writing politically sensitive songs, with titles like “Where Is My Vietnam?” and “Who Are You?.” Mai Khoi a major Vietnamese pop star actually protested Trump’s visit last month to Vietnam. She evicted by the oligarchs who owned the unit on the spot with help of the secret police not even giving her a chance to collect… Read more »
Guest

Totally OT – meanwhile in Budapest:
Russian made tanks BTR-80 operated by TEK guard the Christmas markets at Vörösmarty Tér e g.
The German media already report on Orbán’s fear of nonexistent illegal immigrants:
http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/ungarn-laesst-panzer-vor-weihnachtsmaerkten-auffahren-a-1183803.html
Tourists are using the tanks as background for selfies – Merry Xmas!

Observer
Guest

All part of the propaganda – the big strong leader is protecting you. The chocolate TEK boys displayed the same APCs (not tanks) at the airport for a couple of weeks.

Member

Yes, we have war, as always.

Today, there was again a full page propaganda in Népszava.
It was written by the parliament (ország gyülés) which asked the government to protect Hungary from the EU, which is about to execute the Soros plan.

Jean P
Guest

That explains the APCs around the Christmas market.

wrfree
Guest

Now it is evident why the concept of ‘education’ takes a back seat to ‘propaganda’ in the country. The former teaches how to think. The latter on the other hand what to think. With more and more stories getting controlled, thinking and the cncept of education may have to exist as something unique and at a premium in a more and more closed society.

Member

The TEK, by and large obese and smoking, have been patrolling up amd down Vaci today. IIf you decide to overeat and/or smoke, I really don’t care but Orban’s Stormtroopers are not in any kind of shape to protect the capital.

Ferenc
Guest

Tweet by János Széky‏ (referred to in the Spiegel article) – https://twitter.com/szekyjanos/status/942383126222987264 (btw.English text and actual M1 picture)
And one ‘critical mind‏’ had to positively comment it.
That ‘clueless mind’ needs to really be taught what’s going on:
“At least one country is fuelling the fear of its citizens.”

PS: is there TEK ‘szaloncukor’ on the market? If not yet, then might be an opportunity for next Xmas…

Ferenc
Guest

I think the best thing to do in this case, is protesting against OV’s fear fuelling by boycotting the TEK markets!
And distribute info leaflets to tourist about which markets are TEK-free. IMAGINE…

Ferenc
Guest

Last night? One TEK car was sprayed with red paint*. comment image
Leads to the question: if they aren’t capable to protect their own vehicles, what sort of “extra safety” do they bring to the Christmas market(s)??
https://444.hu/2017/12/21/altalanos-riado-valaki-lefujta-voros-festekkel-a-tek-pancelosat-a-vorosmarty-teren
*exact text so far unknown, could be: Shhite? Shite? Shhte? Shame?

PS: Let’s all sing: TEK, what is it good for? Absolutely NOTHING!! Say it Again!
Original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpWmlRNfLck or a cover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aj5Cvz4PnZw

Guest

Not too much OT re foreign students:
In my hometown we have several thousands of them (all in all 28 000 students and 90 000 inhabitants, a large part of which are academics, nurses and doctors …) so we have a very liberal and global population.
In my favourite bar we oldsters usually leave between 7 and 9 pm when the young students arrive for a beer or two.
You hear all languages, not only German and English – it’s true that there are “in-groups” from one or the other country but also mixed groups, often with some teacher/prof guiding them to the bar (like me he maybe was there the first time many years ago …), usually speaking English.