Palacký University has officially expressed its support for the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary, which is in jeopardy of significant reduction in its operation – or even closing down – due to a proposed government bill. Palacký University (UP) has sent a letter to the Hungarian government, signed by UP Rector Jaroslav Miller and UP and CEU Rector Emeritus Josef Jařab, in order to protest against the efforts to make the educational activities of CEU in Hungary impossible.
Viktor Orbán’s government has prepared amendments to the law that would seriously affect the status and operation of foreign higher education institutions in the country. The amendments seem to significantly endanger CEU, which was founded in 1991 by the entrepreneur and billionaire George Soros with the aim to aid Central European countries in transition from communism to democracy. During the twenty-five years of the school’s existence, a number of academicians and important personalities in arts and politics in the region have graduated therein. Josef Jařab, UP Rector Emeritus, was Rector of CEU in the 1990s, while current UP Rector Jaroslav Miller ranks among its students. “Central European University is one of the best universities in Central Europe, especially in the Humanities, proof of which can be seen in its rankings. During its twenty-five years of existence, it has done a great deal of work in terms of the cultivation of a civic society and the education of liberal elites in Central Europe,” said Jaroslav Miller.
According to the Czech news server České noviny.cz, the Hungarian government is arguing that stricter conditions for the functioning of foreign higher education institutions are necessary because an official investigation found out that 28 universities with foreign ties are operating illegally in the country. České noviny.cz refer to the Guardian’s claim that the list includes, in addition to CEU, also UK schools such as Oxford Brookes University, Napier University from Edinburgh, and CECOS London College as well as similar institutions from the United States, Germany, and France. The proposed amendments, according to the Associated Press, include new requirements for foreign institutions such as the obligation to have a campus in their countries of origin. Furthermore, professors from non-EU countries would lose their exception from being required to apply for a work permit in Hungary.
Critics of the amendment proposal consider it a direct attack against the CEU’s existence and against the activities of the American philanthropist George Soros, who has been criticised by the current conservative government for some time now. “After careful legal study, CEU has concluded that these amendments would make it impossible for the University to continue its operations as an institution of higher education in Budapest,” said CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff.