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Education secretary, business chamber head debate future of higher learning

State secretary in charge of education at the National Resources Ministry Rózsa Hoffmann and chairman of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) Laszló Parragh discussed the new Higher Education Act at a forum on Tuesday.

Hungary's new government signed an agreement with MKIK in November on tasks related to the introduction of a dual education system in Hungary, one that combines apprenticeships and vocational training.

Economic players must give an adequate prognosis of labour market demands in the course of the reform of Hungary's higher education system, said Ms Hoffmann. Without investments in education, economic development "becomes an illusion", she added.

The number of students in higher education in Hungary has quadrupled over the past 20 years as the acceptance rate jumped from about 365 in 1990 to practically 80% in 2008, diluting knowledge and leading to waste, Parragh said. The chamber estimates at least HUF 70 billion-80 billion is wasted each year on over-educating Hungarians, he added.

Parragh noted that big investments had been made in the higher education sector in recent years, but these were mostly infrastructure projects that had no apparent effect on the quality of education.

The number of students in technical fields and the natural sciences must be raised, even doubled in some cases, he said.

Hoffmann said increasing the number of such students was one of the main points of the strategy for higher education. (MTI Econews)