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CEU, TUM sign cooperation agreement

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Central European University (CEU) have signed a cooperation agreement in a bid to resolve the impasse over CEUʼs future operations in the Hungarian capital, according to a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal.

Johannes Herrmann and Michael Ignatieff (photo: Zoltán Tuba)

The document was signed by President Prof. Johannes Herrmann, leading the delegation from TUM, and CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff.

“The parties understand that the offer of the Bavarian government to support TUM’s engagement in Budapest is conditional on the ability of CEU to operate freely as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Hungary,” the announcement said. “In this light, both parties call on the Hungarian government to provide CEU with the legal guarantees that would make it possible to inaugurate this new chapter in Hungarian and Bavarian academic and scientific cooperation.”

The agreement covers TUM faculty positions in three transnational dual appointments with CEU in the field of politics, technology and society; academic curricular activities including joint seminars, workshops, summer schools, as well as course-based programs potentially leading to joint certificates and/or degrees accredited in Germany and the United States; as well as exchange opportunities for students, faculty and also staff members.

In late March, Hungarian Minister for Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said the matter of CEU had been brought up at his talks with German Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek in Berlin. He confirmed the Hungarian government’s support for a proposal by Manfred Weber, the candidate for the presidency of the European Commission of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the upcoming European Parliament elections, on the university forming a partnership with TUM and carmaker BMW, state news wire MTI noted. 

A long drawn-out saga

The agreement signals the latest development in a long drawn-out controversy between CEU and the Hungarian government, which has made no secret of targeting the institution due to its links to Hungarian-born investor George Soros, the focus of increasingly strident rhetoric in recent years.

An amended law on higher education directly affecting CEU, passed in April 2017, triggered academic outrage and mass protests in solidarity with the institution, but eventually led to the university deciding to transfer its U.S. degree courses to Vienna.

In April this year, the Hungarian government maintained that it would not relax rules for international universities despite pressure from the European Union and offers from Germany to mediate.

The issue of Hungarian government intransigence with respect to CEU was among the stated reasons for the EPP indefinitely suspending the membership of the governing Fidesz party in March. Weber stressed at the time that basic rights, such as the freedom of academia and education, are “not subject to bargaining.”