Hungary's Soros-founded CEU university wins license extension

Hungary's Soros-founded CEU university wins license extension
Hungary’s parliament passed legislation in April modifying the law on higher education in a way that threatened to put an end to the operations of the university.
By bne IntelliNews March 1, 2018

The Central European University, founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, has received permission to operate in Hungary for the next five years, the university announced on February 28.

"Our university is proud to have secured re-accreditation here in Hungary, where we belong, and we’re delighted that we’re ranked among the world’s top universities in so many disciplines," said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff on Wednesday.

The Hungarian Accreditation Committee voted unanimously to grant institutional re-accreditation for the next five years, following an extensive review.

The school was founded by US-Hungarian financier and philanthropist George Soros in 1991, who also funds various liberal NGOs in Hungary, and has aroused Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ire for offering a liberal education.

CEU was ranked among the top 100 in the world in the fields of Politics, Social Policy, Sociology, History, and Philosophy. The rankings represent an improvement in History, from the 101-150 spot last year. It received rankings in the top 200 in Economics and Law, the same level as in 2017.

Hungary’s parliament passed legislation in April modifying the law on higher education in an expedited procedure that threatened to put an end to the operations of the university. The legislation appeared to have specifically targeted the university, setting discriminatory and stringent conditions. The government claimed it wanted to create a level playing field for all institutions of higher education.

The attack on the US school sparked mass condemnation and protests at home and abroad. The EU institutions and US claimed Budapest was threatening academic freedom with the legislation.

The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against legislation on NGOs and education in August, but Hungary maintained a hardline stance in a response sent to Brussels and refused to make any changes to the higher education law.

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party suffered a shocking loss at a weekend mayoral by-election at its stronghold in Hodmezovasarhely. Even with a commanding lead in the polls, the ruling party’s majority could come under threat should opposition parties unite behind one candidate at individual constituencies.

According to Hungarian media, the governing party may shift the focus of the campaign, abandoning the non-stop bashing and demonising of George Soros and focus on trumpeting its achievements of the past eight years. Printed ads on the Stop Soros legislation have all but disappeared from government media in the past few days. 

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