Cut backs hit law students

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Hungarian media keeps hammering the same old message: there are so many law graduates in Hungary that even the corner greengrocer has a degree in law. Why would we need to train more? Education experts, however, point out that while 8-9 % of college graduates possess law degrees in the EU, that number is actually much lower in Hungary: only 3-4 % of all graduates come from law schools.  What is more, among unemployed degree holders the legal profession is seriously underrepresented; after IT experts, law school graduates are the second most unlikely to be unemployed.

It is hard to tell whether law school graduates are too many or too few in number. In any case, the Hungarian government decided in 2012 to cut back on the number who could undertake the state-financed study of law. Before 2012, 4,000 mostly state-funded students acquired law degrees annually; that dropped to hundred-and-something per year after 2012. As a result, “there was a huge decrease in the number of law school applicants after 2012. This, even in the short run, is going to have serious consequences for the system of legal education, which used to be based on eight different law schools all around Hungary,” Attila Kormány, Assistant Professor of ELTE’s Faculty of Law told the Budapest Business Journal. “All the more so because the decrease affected the eight faculties of law in various ways: at ELTE in Budapest, the number of students decreased by one-third, while in Győr and Pécs, law schools are being threatened with extinction.”

There are other worries. “As a result of the government’s cut back, upward mobility, which is generally week in today’s Hungary anyway, will practically cease to exist in the legal profession,” Kormány commented. Without state funding, one semester costs HUF 170,000-260,000. “As it is primarily the provincial laws schools which are threatened with being closed down; young law students from those regions will be faced with having to rent expensive apartments in Budapest if they are forced to study there.”

 

Scholarship Funded

It was in the interest of those students that leading Hungarian lawyers’ offices founded a scholarship. The Lippay Scholarship supports students who were just a few scores below the minimum level required for a state-funded education in law. In exchange, grantees agree to work for the sponsoring lawyers’ offices, which is a form of internship for them as well. ELTE School of Law hopes that when this form of scholarship evolves further it will provide the necessary funding for 18 talented students every year, and promote social mobility at the same time.

If somebody has rich parents and he or she is ambitious enough, they may ponder whether it is at all worth paying a EUR 900 tuition fee (and renting an apartment on top of that) in Budapest, or it is more reasonable to apply to the University of Vienna or Humboldt University in Berlin. “At the moment, the Hungarian educational system does not have surveys about the number of students who gain admission to universities abroad, and start their studies in other countries,” István Szabó, Vice Dean of Education at the School of Law and Public Administration at Péter Pázmány Catholic University told the BBJ. What Hungary has is a career monitoring system run by a background company called Educatio, affiliated with the Ministry of Human Resources; according to their surveys, humanities students study abroad in the largest numbers via student exchange programs, and law students come second.

 

-- This is an extract from Budapest Business Journal. For the full article see the paper.

 

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