Hungary in talks with U.S. officials on higher education amendment

Analysis

In a letter sent to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog welcomed DeVosʼs acknowledgment of the amendment to Hungaryʼs higher education law and expressed hope for a resolution to concerns expressed, according to a report by state news wire MTI.

In her letter, dated June 15, Secretary DeVos expressed appreciation for the information Balog had provided her regarding the amendment of the law and the status of Budapestʼs Central European University (CEU). She also took note of the other higher educational institutions with U.S. ties that might be affected by the amendment.       

"Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States," the secretary explained in her letter. "The U.S. higher education institutions engaged in higher education activities in Hungary were all chartered or authorized by a competent state-level authority and are accredited by a U.S.-based accreditor recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education."

Regarding the stipulation in the amendment requiring that an interstate agreement be signed before foreign universities may award degrees in Hungary, DeVos wrote that the feasibility of such agreements needed to be discussed with state-level authorities.   

In his reply on Wednesday, Balog welcomed the secretaryʼs acknowledgement of the changes in Hungarian regulations and said that Hungarian officials have already contacted the states of Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.

"We hope that the negotiating parties will come to a mutually satisfying resolution concerning this complex legal issue," he said.   

Hungary passed legislation tightening rules governing the operations of foreign universities in the country in April. The amendment, seen by many as a deliberate attack on the CEU, founded by U.S. financier George Soros, stipulates that to issue degrees in Hungary, foreign-registered universities have to undertake education in their home countries or have an interstate agreement sanctioning their activities in Hungary. The government initiated talks on the issue with the U.S. in April.

Previously, the U.S. called on the Hungarian government to suspend the amendment on higher education in the wake of its adoption.

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