CEU: extension of education law deadline ‘unnecessary’



The Hungarian Parliament voted Tuesday to extend the deadline for compliance with amendments to the act on higher education. The Central European University (CEU), which says it has been specifically targeted by the amendments, indicated that it does not understand the reasoning for the delay, insisting than an agreement with the government is ready to sign.

CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff.

As expected, lawmakers on Tuesday extended the deadline for foreign colleges and universities operating in Hungary to comply with new rules in the amended higher education act by one year to January 1, 2019.  The amendment was approved in an expedited procedure with a vote of 116 ayes, 31 nays and one abstention.

In what has proved a controversial move internationally, Parliament approved amendments to the higher education act in the spring, requiring foreign colleges and universities in Hungary to operate on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement and to have a campus in the country in which they are based.

In a press release following the vote, CEU - which is based in Budapest but accredited by the State of New York, and has no campus in the United States - repeated its position that it is now in full compliance with the law since it signed a memorandum of understanding with Bard College to provide educational activities in New York.

"CEU complies fully with the requirement of educational activities in the U.S., as specified by the Hungarian authorities in the agreement negotiated with NYS," said the CEU statement, received by the Budapest Business Journal. "Having fulfilled its obligations under the draft agreement, CEU calls on the Hungarian government to sign the agreement and send it to Parliament for ratification. The extension to the deadline for compliance, voted on today by the Hungarian Parliament, is an unnecessary delay that subjects the university and the Hungarian academic community to a further year of legal uncertainty."

In a press conference held the same day, CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff said: "We donʼt ask for exemption."

Zsolt Enyedi, CEU Pro-Rector for Hungarian Affairs, said the governmentʼs move is particularly worrying given a recent statement by Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog, who indicated that it is "meaningless" to sign the agreement before the deadline of January 2019. CEU requests an explanation for this statement, Enyedi added.

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